An investigation into the factors affecting Internet performance in Africa: a throughput, latency, and content hosting analysis

Panel discussion at Africa Internet Summit, 8 May 2018, Dakar, Senegal.
With increasing demand for videos, streaming media, and for services such as cloud computing on the continent, measuring Internet performance to identify performance bottlenecks, and specifically how users experience performance, becomes increasingly important. Across Africa, operators have extensively invested in increasing capacity through investing in undersea cables, as well as in terrestrial fibre networks. Mobile LTE networks provision is expanding as well but remains insufficient to cover remote and rural areas. Although this increasing investment in infrastructure is expected to have improved broadband performance across the continent, the reliability and performance that users ultimately receive is determined also by the interconnection between ISPs. Often, high latencies to destinations introduce significant performance bottlenecks, suggesting that, in addition to investments in higher throughput links, effort should be devoted to improving interconnection between ISPs and locating content closer to users.
In addition to throughput and latency, studies have revealed that local content is a major bottleneck to African connectivity. Most of the African content is hosted outside the continent, and lack of service infrastructure (e.g. web servers, data centres, and content delivery networks) in Africa means that Internet users must often fetch content from the other side of the world. Local content providers typically host their content abroad because the hosting cost is lower. However, content hosted abroad must be delivered back to the country over international Internet transit links that, in spite of significant infrastructure investments in recent years, are still expensive.
Research ICT Africa and AfriNIC, during a panel at the Africa Internet Summit 2018, will present research results on the factors affecting the performance of the internet across the continent, including throughput, latency, and content access and hosting. The panel will show the presence of latency clusters, where some countries have built up low delay interconnectivity among themselves, dispelling the myth that intra-continental communications in Africa are universally poor. Also, the panel will show how in some cases, it is faster to reach European or North American networks than those in other regions of Africa. The panel will also discuss how most African countries heavily rely on foreign services, both to host, to access, and to distribute local content in Africa, and will show how latencies to such remotely hosted local content are significantly higher.
You can download the presentation at the following link