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Telecoms connected to local Internet exchange, but not yet sharing data

Published:Sunday | June 7, 2015 | 6:00 AMMcPherse Thompson

Jamaica's three major telecommunications carriers and e-Gov Jamaica Limited have now connected to the local Internet Exchange Point (IXP) in Kingston, but the parties are not 'peering', that is, exchanging data between themselves, the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) has said.

With the connection to the IXP, Jamaica's network readiness and its Internet market continue to mature in that it can provide better copyright and content protection for people who wish to participate in the global digital economy.

The OUR said the three major carriers - LIME Jamaica, Digicel Jamaica and Columbus Communications, trading as Flow - as well as e-Gov Jamaica have connected to the IXP switch. However, responding to Sunday Business queries, the OUR said that Jamaica will not derive any benefit from the local exchange if the parties are not peering.

Peering is the process by which two Internet service providers, or an Internet service provider and a content provider voluntarily interconnect and exchange traffic, the regulator said. This allows them to directly hand off traffic rather than having to pay a third party to carry that traffic across the Internet for them, the OUR added.

According to the TechTarget network of technology, in a mobile telephone network, hand off is the transition for any given user of signal transmission from one base station to a geographically adjacent base station as the user moves around.

The OUR said, however, that the connection of non-Internet service providers and content providers to the IXP was under consideration.

LIME's Corporate Communications Manager, Elon Parkinson, in an emailed response to Sunday Business queries, said that network was the first to connect to the IXP switch located at the e-Gov data centre. LIME connected on December 10, 2014.

"LIME/Flow have been and will continue to play a leading role within the IXP Steering Committee to ensure that the IXP is successfully established. We remain committed and are available to peer with other entities that are members of the IXP," Parkinson said. LIME will change its brand identity to Flow once the companies merge their operations.

Chief operations officer at Digicel, Sean Latty, said that "all technical requirements have been met on our end in terms of connectivity to the IXP. We look forward to the peering arrangements being finalised among all the operators and are committed to playing our part in that process."

The IXP will provide consumers with faster connection to content and ensure improved service reliabi-lity as it facilitates smooth and efficient transfer of digital information originating in and destined for Jamaica to be handled locally, LIME said in a statement last week.

positive contribution

This removes the need for routing the same data traffic overseas before it is sent back to Jamaica, thereby avoiding associated foreign exchange costs, it said.

Managing director of the combined LIME/Flow operations in Jamaica, Garfield Sinclair, expressed confidence that the IXP will make a positive contribution towards Jamaica achieving full Internet penetration within the shortest time possible.

With its plan already in place to deepen rural Internet penetration, LIME said its leadership in connecting to the IXP gateway opens up real possibilities for all who access it's platforms using wired, mobile or Dekal Super WiFi technology.

"With the progressive increase in local Internet traffic on our platforms, we felt it necessary to ensure that Jamaica's access to locally developed web-based portals was as cost-efficient as it could possibly be," Sinclair said.

The company is now focused on fostering the development of the fledgling Internet-driven component of the Jamaican economy, a move Sinclair says can help deliver the jobs and much-desired growth Jamaica needs.

"The IXP opens up tremendous opportunities for our local content developers to participate in the global Internet economy, while building confidence in their ability to better manage access to their intellectual property," said the telecoms executive.

The IXP will further contribute to the development of a more stable, competitive, cost-efficient and robust Information Communication Technology and broadband ecosystem in Jamaica, LIME said.

Parkinson said that connection to the local exchange would not necessarily impact Internet rates.

"It's not so much that it's going to have a positive impact on rates people pay to connect to the Internet because already we have effectively been subsidising by way of not creating price movements that are lockstep with the value of the Jamaican dollar to its US counterpart," he said.

Jamaica's IXP switch was installed in September 2014.

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com