Content Nodes to Accelerate Africa’s Internet-SEACOM


seacomInternet users in Africa have begun to enjoy faster access as telecom providers step up the roll out of content delivery networks (CDNs) which accelerate and optimise file downloads, video and music playback, software updates requested for by operators and ISPs connected to a telecom network.

For end-users, this translates into lower latency, faster speeds and more reliable service when accessing popular web services and content from around the world.

Analyists say this is the next phase in the development of Africa’s Internet infrastructure which is expected to see more content and services brought closer to end-users and then spur demand.

According to Mark Tinka, Head of Engineering at Pan-African telecom enabler SEACOM, “Over the past six years, we have seen a great deal of activity in Africa’s telecom market as providers have invested in infrastructure such as carrier-neutral data centres, open peering Internet exchange points, national and regional fibre links and submarine cables.”

To Tinka, the next step will be to host more content within Africa rather than in Europe and the U.S. – 90 percent of African Internet content is hosted outside the continent today. We’d like to see that figure reversed so that 80 or 90 percent of content is hosted within Africa.”

“In addition to bringing content from American and European content owners closer to end-users, CDN’s will make it more viable for African content owners to host their content within the continent. Many content owners currently host their content in Europe or the U.S because regional links between many African countries are of relatively poor quality. Now they can bring it back to Africa. For example, a South African content provider could then host its content in South Africa and allow it to be cached on a CDN node in Uganda to provide East African users with faster access. This is a major boost for African internet users and content producers and will improve the end-user experience,” says Tinka.

CDN’s such as Akamai Technologies, Level 3, CDNetworks, Limelight, Google Global Cache, etc. deploy content and caching nodes that store copies of popular websites and content. SEACOM, for example, offers operators and networks the ability to use these content and caching nodes. The result is that the content can be brought closer to the end-user—great news for African consumers who want better performance when accessing web applications, services and content.

Tinka concludes that there is expected to be a marked performance in African websites for users who access them from countries outside the ones where they are hosted. This will support the many organisations striving to roll out services such as e-learning, e-health, entertainment, and more, for a pan-African audience.