How our new PoP in Johannesburg helps fuel the digital revolution in Africa

kyleBy Kyle Okamoto, Chief Network Officer

For more than 150 years, Africa’s channels of communication have worked the same way. From the telegrams of yesterday to the video chats of today, common means of long-distance communication were dependent on thousands of kilometers of submarine cables.

Though the cables themselves have been updated (as recently as 2012), the paths have remained unchanged since the Age of Imperialism. Even in our modern world, Africans’ access to services like video streaming and email are dependent on 3,000 kilometers of strands of glass and copper, which sit on seabeds prone to everything from nibbling sharks to unsuspecting drillers to earthquakes.

Changing this antiquated system is long overdue, which is why Verizon Digital Media Services has established our latest point of presence (PoP), a Johannesburg PoP in South Africa. Johannesburg has an enormous and underserved internet user base, and it’s time to ditch the old and outdated routes to ensure fast, high-quality content delivery.

Fewer risks and faster connections

Simply by placing a Johannesburg PoP, we have already observed a 5x decrease in latency and a 70% improvement in throughput in the region. South Africans are getting their video, gaming, software, communications and social media delivered more quickly and faster than ever before.

African internet connections have some of the lowest speeds in the world. Where high-quality streaming video is concerned, this is largely because, until now, every packet of data carried by a content delivery network (CDN) originated in London or other parts of Europe and was ferried for thousands of kilometers along submarine cables. On top of being slow, this process is also unreliable: any time the cable comes up on a beach, terminates in a building, or interconnects with another cable system, it adds a potential point of failure.

Thanks to the Johannesburg PoP, consumers in the southern part of Africa now receive their digital media from just a hundred kilometers (or less) away instead of several thousand. There are fewer points of failure, not to mention a far faster delivery with much less lag.

It’s not only our customers and their consumers who are reaping the benefits of the Johannesburg PoP, but Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as well. Previously, ISPs would have to shuttle traffic back and forth between Africa and Europe, which is quite costly. By receiving our customer’s amazing content locally via the Johannesburg PoP, ISPs are saving a great deal of money and improving their consumer performance, stimulating growth.

Preparing Africa for tomorrow’s internet

Our first PoP in Africa has helped improve access to high-definition video and media experiences, but it’s still not enough. Africa needs to be ready for the future, too.

Mobile data traffic across Africa is already set to increase 15-fold by 2020, according to Cisco’s 2017 data forecast. That’s why we invested millions of dollars making sure our Johannesburg PoP isn’t just built to support a mobile-first market, but what is now in many places a mobile-only market.

Since Africa has been reliant on submarine cables for so long, the center of the continent has little to no terrestrial internet infrastructure. In fact, much of central Africa depends on satellite internet. Since satellite internet connections can drop depending on the weather, and since digital information must travel between Earth and its satellites, they have a high latency problem.

We intend for the Johannesburg PoP to be the first step toward increasing performance and accessibility across the whole continent. Starting in South Africa, we can reach numerous countries in the southern part of the continent, including Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Botswana. And thanks to a new PoP we’re placing in Marseille, France, we’ll be reducing latency across North Africa at the same time, as that is a premier gateway to the northern Africa region.

As more of our customers expand into African markets, we are working to have the groundwork for them in place. So long to old-fashioned and slow submarine cable delivery; it’s time for African internet speeds to zoom into the future.

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