- In its first decade, the UbuntuNet Alliance has grown to include 15 national research and education networks, also known as ‘NRENs’. The alliance brings them affordable and high-speed internet connectivity.
- Over the same time period, the alliance has established 10 points of presence, also known as ‘POPs’.
- Over the next three years, the alliance plans add new POPs in Botswana, Burundi, Madagascar, Malawi, Somalia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe.
The upcoming UbuntuNet-Connect conference will present the alliance with an opportunity to celebrate the success it has registered over the ten years it has been operational, as well as to look into its future plans.
Having started with just five established and emerging NRENs (MAREN, Malawi; TENET, South Africa; KENET, Kenya; MoRENet, Mozambique; and RwEdNet, Rwanda), the alliance has, in 10 years, managed to bring on board an additional 10 NREN members — bringing the total NREN membership to 15.
Between 2005 and 2015, NRENs from Burundi (BERNET), The Democratic Republic of Congo (Eb@le), Ethiopia (EthERNet), Madagascar (iRENALA), Namibia (Xnet), Somalia (SomaliREN), Sudan (SudREN), Tanzania (TERNET), Uganda (RENU), and Zambia (ZAMREN) have joined and become paid-up members of the alliance.
Building the network and reducing costs
But of what use would having this significant number of NREN members be if the alliance were not meeting its objective of bringing affordable and high-speed internet connectivity to them?
Thanks to the EU-funded AfricaConnect project, the alliance has managed to build the regional backbone network and install eight POPs within the UbuntuNet Alliance region, bringing the total number of the alliance’s POPs to 10.
Before the AfricaConnect project, the alliance had two POPs — in London and Amsterdam — that were delivering transit to NRENs from Europe.
On another front, the alliance has managed to drastically reduce bandwidth costs for NRENs that are connected to the UbuntuNet network while increasing bandwidth capacity. For example, ZAMREN has registered a bandwidth cost decrease from $900 (~€800) per Mbps per month in 2012 to the current $256 (~€225) per Mbps per month. The NREN’s bandwidth has also increased from 155 Mbps in 2012 to 1 Gbps today. In Uganda, institutions that are members of RENU now pay $180 (~€160) per Mbps per month, down from the $540 (~€475) per Mbps per month they were paying before RENU connected to the UbuntuNet backbone in March 2014.
The next three years
The UbuntuNet Alliance has unveiled its three-year network upgrade plan, which aims at expanding connectivity within its membership region by increasing the number of POPs from 10 to 17 by the year 2017.
Currently, the Alliance operates 10 POPs, with two of them delivering global transit in Europe and eight POPs located in the UbuntuNet Alliance region, in seven member countries.
At a recent workshop in Lilongwe, Malawi, the alliance’s technical manager, Joe Kimaili, revealed that the alliance plans to expand its connectivity within the region by adding seven more POPs in countries where NRENs are not yet connected to the UbuntuNet network.
Within the next three years, the alliance plans to add POPs in Botswana, Burundi, Madagascar, Malawi, Somalia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. This would bring the total number of NREN members covered by the UbuntuNet regional backbone to 14.
The plan is also to upgrade the bandwidth of many links between POPs. This includes the links between the African and European POPs, which will be upgraded from their current 2.18 Gbs to 5 Gbps.