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OUR touts local IXP for Internet traffic - Switch installed in September

Published:Sunday | November 16, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Avia Collinder, Business Reporter

The Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) is now pushing for service providers to make use of Jamaica's Internet exchange point (IXP) following the installation of a switching station in September, a development that director Leighton Hamilton says will cut local server hosting costs and reduce Internet charges.

The IXP allows local Internet service providers to traffic content between networks.

Currently, all Jamaican Internet traffic is routed through Miami, Florida, in the United States, which comes at an extra cost to the country.

"When you send an email now, it goes to your provider, then to Miami, then back to the provider before it reaches the recipient. That is time and cost," said Hamilton, the director for quality management at the OUR.

"A switch within the same country means savings in foreign exchange and is a lot quicker," he said.

The switch will allow local companies to host servers in Jamaica. Local companies connecting to the Papine facility will do so at their own cost.

Flow Jamaica has already connected to the installation, erected at Papine, St Andrew, with Lime Jamaica and Digicel Jamaica also promising to do the same "soon", Hamilton said.

The installation he said, has opened the door for companies offering hosting services, which will be attractive to local users because of lower costs and better quality.

Local coders, he said, might be motivated to write programmes for a Jamaican Netflix now that the IXP can host content here.

The equipment for the IXP was donated by Packet Clearing House and is currently being hosted by eGov Jamaica Limited. The cost of the installation of the equipment was borne by the OUR.

Hamilton hopes that service providers - who may connect to the switch free of cost by running a fibre cable to its location in Papine - will form their own association to oversee routine maintenance.

There is no further licensing needed for connection to the switch.

Local companies may also cut costs further, he said, by hosting their servers locally instead of in the US.

Jamaica has come to the IXP trend behind Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada, St Lucia, and Dominica.

According to Hamilton, local telecoms up to now have elected to connect through Florida simply because it was the nearest switch. Now they have an alternative.

The Florida switch is owned and operated by its users, totalling about 1,000 telecoms, including Digicel and Lime.

"In all jurisdictions where IXPs have been implemented there has been a positive impact on the bottom line of internet service providers," says Hamilton, who has been assigned oversight of the IXP project.

A local IXP connection saves on international transit costs and "significantly reduces network latency due to improved bandwidth and shorter distances for the data to travel because domestic-bound traffic does not have to be routed via international links before being delivered", Hamilton said.

And, international content providers such as Google and Netflix can be induced to host their content locally, he adds.

An IXP working group was established in January 2014 to oversee the implementation of the project, comprising LIME; Digicel; Flow; University of the West Indies; eGov; Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce; Ministry of Science Technology Energy & Mining; and the OUR as facilitator.

"It should be noted that the establishment of a local IXP will not result in a full migration from overseas IXPs," said Hamilton.

Service providers "still have to utilise overseas IXPs to exchange international-bound traffic", he said.