Above: St Lucia (CJ Photo)
By Gerard Best
Saint Lucia’s Internet users can look forward to better connectivity and faster speeds between local Internet service providers (ISPs).
Digicel signed a memorandum of understanding on April 2, agreeing to become the newest member of the Saint Lucia Internet exchange (SLiX). Digicel joins its competitors FLOW and LIME, founding members of SLiX, in an initiative designed to improve the reliability of the Internet in St Lucia.
The three ISPs met last March at the Ministry of Public Service, Information and Broadcasting to discuss the possibility of Digicel joining the local Internet exchange. That meeting ended with a unanimous vote, clearing the way for Saint Lucia to become the first Caribbean territory where Digicel is participating in a local IXP.
With the three telecommunications companies peering at SLiX, their networks will interconnect directly, rather than through a third party in a foreign territory.
That translates to faster connectivity for customers, and lower operating costs to the Internet service providers, explained Christopher Roberts, Project Coordinator for the Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Programme (CARCIP) in Saint Lucia.
“Without a local IXP, for example, e-mail sent from a customer on one St Lucian ISP to a customer of another St Lucian ISP would have to travel all the way to an IXP in the USA before returning to Saint Lucia. The involvement of that facility in the USA is expensive, could result in delays, and could result in someone or some foreign government inspecting your data,” Roberts said.
“With the implementation of the SLiX, that data now travels from a local sender to a local recipient without ever having to leave Saint Lucia. The benefits are faster delivery times and reduced cost, because that unnecessarily longer trip has now been eliminated.”
SLiX was launched in February 2014, with support from Packet Clearing House, the world’s leading implementation of Internet exchange points or IXPs. Bevil Wooding, Internet Strategist with PCH, said, “Given the consolidation currently being witnessed in the Caribbean telecom sector, Digicel’s participation in SLiX is an important milestone for the region. It proves that competitors in the space can collaborate on areas of mutual benefit for their business and their customers. SLiX is already one of the fastest growing IXPs in the region, and Digicel’s inclusion will only help make it even better for Local Internet users.”
The growth of the SLiX is part of the wider ongoing effort by the Saint Lucia government to support the Internet-based economic growth, under the umbrella of CARCIP. Funded by the International Development Association of the World Bank and coordinated by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union, CARCIP seeks to help governments and private sector to harmonise the development of critical telecommunications infrastructure across three participating Eastern Caribbean countries—Saint Lucia, Grenada, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The SLiX implementation was also supported by the engineers from the Caribbean Network Operators Group (CaribNOG), which will host its next regional meeting in St Lucia at the end of April, to continue its work in training network engineers to support IXPs and other critical internet infrastructure.
“It is good to see ISPs in the region supporting local traffic exchange through IXPs,” said Stephen Lee, a founding member of CaribNOG. “CaribNOG has been working with PCH to support IXP proliferation across the region and those efforts are now bearing fruit.”
The Saint Lucia exchange is one of nine IXPs in the Caribbean.
Other active IXPS are located in Barbados, Curacao, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, St Maarten, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Belize and St Kitts and Nevis are expected to be the next countries to establish IXPs soon.
The upcoming Caribbean Peering and Interconnection Forum will bring all the region’s IXPs together to share experience and forge new relationships with international content providers.
That meeting takes place in Barbados in May.