South Africa’s first Internet Exchange this month celebrates 25 years of continuous and uninterrupted service to both the country and the Internet consumer.

The Johannesburg Internet Exchange (JINX) was launched in 1996, and this seminal event was followed by the launch of the Cape Town Internet Exchange (CINX) and Durban Internet Exchange (DINX).

The capacity of the INX ports in 1996 was just 832kbps. This year it is 1 762Tbps, which is about 2-million times higher.

South Africa’s Internet Exchange points are in good company as the New York International Internet Exchange, Budapest Internet Exchange, Israeli Internet Exchange, Los Angeles International Internet Exchange, Frankfurt DE-CIX and Vienna Internet Exchange, amongst others, all celebrate their quarter century milestone this year.

INX-ZA manages South Africa’s Internet exchange points for the benefit of Internet consumers and is an independent operating unit of the Internet Service Providers’ Association of SA (ISPA).

Internet exchange points enable Internet businesses to interconnect their networks so that domestic Internet users benefit from faster connections and more efficient access to online services. Network operators benefit from lower costs, resulting in more stable and affordable bandwidth which is crucial for the development of the Internet.

Edrich de Lange, chair of ISPA’s INX Committee, comments: “It is worth pausing for a moment to consider how far we have come since 1996. South Africa’s local web is today a robust and stable system that is today less reliant on international communication gateways.

In 2020, redundancy created by multiple undersea cable systems and a dynamic local peering ecosystem means that recent breaks in two different cable systems had a limited impact on local Internet users.”

The INXes are an example of a true South African success story. They have all in the last few years been expanded to boost local service delivery, and funding has even been forthcoming from the African Union which recognises just how vital this infrastructure is in helping Africa to become self-sustaining. ISPA’s members, too, regularly contribute towards the country’s INXes so that the stability and integrity of the South Africa web can be maintained.

Looking to the future, recent donations of dark fibre will usher in the next chapter of the local web’s growth story. There are many advantages to securing access to this valuable pre-existing underground infrastructure that range from future-proofing data networks to boosting 5G readiness.

With regards to peers’ growth, in 2020 INX-ZA gained 20 new peers, or 44 new ports. There are currently 176 unique peers across INX, with 310 active ports.

In December 1996, the connections were:

* Global Internet Access, 64kbps;

* Global One, 256kbps;

* Internet Solutions, Ethernet (but effectively 256kbps); and

* UUNet Internet Africa, 256kbps.