Mombasa One Update
2017 was a great year for icolo.io, after a year and half of construction, our major achievement last year was the opening of our first data center in Mombasa, Mombasa One (MBA1). This big milestone would not have been possible without our incredible team who worked tirelessly from the beginning to the end of the project.
Since the opening of MBA1 in September 2017, we have settled down into a nice, calm, smooth and stable mode of operations – this is just how we like it. We are happy to announce we have maintained 100% uptime since our opening. We are now focusing on bringing customers on-board and on the continuous improvement of our operations. We have also brought in a number of ISPs: Internet Solutions, Safaricom, MTN, Frontier Optical Networks (FON), Jamii Telecom, SEACOM and Liquid Telecom. We are now working with Internet Exchanges to be up in the first quarter of 2018.
The icolo.io Service Center (ISC) is now up and running, and can be reached on +254 (0) 709 182 000 or via the Customer Portal which you can reach by visiting https://portal.icolo.io. If you have any queries about icolo services, have equipment being delivered to MBA1 or are visiting to deploy your equipment , please do get in touch with us via the ISC.
Here are a few photos from MBA1:
Commencement of icolo's Nairobi One Data Center
For years, Nairobi has been the center of technological innovation in Kenya, and the heart of the country’s thriving tech ecosystem, famously known as Silicon Savannah.
Nairobi One (NBO1) is strategically located 13.5km from Nairobi’s central business district in East Africa’s most cosmopolitan city, the most innovative city in Africa and the third largest technology startup hub in Africa, icolo’s Nairobi One data center offers state-of-the-art colocation and interconnection services to Africa’s most innovative businesses.
icolo.io’s NBO1 is now firmly underway and on course to open its doors by the end of 2018. NBO1 will be icolo’s second data center in Kenya. The data center introduces a total campus area of 4050m² to create the ideal environment for your business, today and tomorrow.
NBO1’s open access data center will provide colocation services i.e. rack space, power, cooling and physical security. It will also provide remote hand services and high level technical support to our customers. This data center will serve major businesses in East Africa ranging from internet service providers, telecom service providers, financial institutions and medical facilities among others. The connectivity needs to our customers will be served directly by the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) present in our data center.
With the growing demand on colocation data centers in some African countries and growing innovation and changes in the industry, we as a data center provider have to put in more hard work to meet the needs of customers by expanding our locations and services to challenge the African colocation market.
By colocating at icolo’s Nairobi Campus your business is best placed to connect to our established customer communities and services, creating commercial relationships with our partners that help you to excel in today’s hyper-connected world.
Partner Feature: Mark Tinka, Head of Engineering at SEACOM
SEACOM is Africa’s foremost submarine cable operator and ICT enabler. Their network of submarine and terrestrial high speed fibre optic cables serve the east and west coast of Africa. SEACOM’s reach extends into Europe and Asia-Pacific via India. SEACOM has announced its plans for 2018 to include investment in fibre infrastructure. They intend to increase their focus on last-mile fibre, using its existing wholesale infrastructure to provide a scalable system. They are planning to partner with and acquire existing fibre wholesalers to increase their fibre coverage and connect more customers, in addition to building more infrastructure as reported by ITWeb.
icolo.io has an aim to connect the African continent, Mombasa One Data Center (MBA1) has been placed as the ‘Gateway to Africa’ giving our customers access to a new landing site. icolo.io has partnered with the Pan-African network which is currently connecting their fibre into icolo.io’s MBA1 to create a point-of-presence (POP). Once completed customers in our data center will have the ability to connect more easily and faster to other networks and cable operators across the continent.
We sat down with Mark Tinka, Head of Engineering at SEACOM to tell us more about SEACOM and their landing stations in East Africa, including his thoughts on East Africa’s colocation market.
Who is Mark Tinka and why is subsea data traffic important to you ?
I have been in the internet industry since 1999, having built and operated service provider networks in various African countries, as well as South East Asia. I am currently with SEACOM, based in Johannesburg, leading up the engineering department, and have been there since 2012.
Subsea traffic is important to me because I work with a submarine cable operator. But also because the arrival of submarine infrastructure to the coast of Eastern and Southern Africa has had (and continues to have) a huge social and economic impact on the the region. I feel that the work we are doing to help build an African internet will go a long way toward improving the lives of ordinary men and women in the area, through the benefits associated with access to digital information and high-speed internet.
What is the impact of subsea cables to East Africa ?
For a long time, the only internet connectivity available in East Africa to the rest of the world was via satellite. From as far back as I can remember, US$7,000 per month got you a meagre 320Kbps (yes, that is “K”) of bandwidth, right up until 2005, when we saw 1Mbps going for some US$2,500 per month. And even then, that reduction in prices did not have a meaningful impact in making the internet available to the masses.
When submarine fibre came to East Africa, there was an immediate price drop of nearly 95%. Inevitably, as time has gone by, the cost of internet bandwidth on the wholesale market is at a level where it is now possible for the ordinary man and woman on the street to enjoy the benefits of the internet.
Can more be done, yes. And without a doubt, it will only get better as the ecosystem that builds around the presence of submarine fibre continues to develop at this fast pace.
Do more subsea cables mean better internet access/penetration for Kenya, will it reduce the price ?
There is no doubt that more submarine cables will drive the cost of wholesale bandwidth down. Whether that translates to lower prices being offered by Internet Service Providers (ISP) to their customers is another discussion altogether. That said, logic suggests that lower wholesale costs means more ISP’s can start business to compete with incumbents, and such, create a competitive market where the customer should, in the end, be the ultimate winner.
Tell us a little bit about SEACOMs enterprise strategy in Kenya
SEACOM’s play in the enterprise space is to encourage a faster uptake of all the bandwidth that we have present at our cable landing stations at the coast. Since our cable system was launched in 2009, there was a huge demand in bandwidth from our wholesale customers. However, over the years, we feel that there is an appreciable stagnation in that demand, and yet the ordinary user still complains about slow speed and high bandwidth costs.
So as a mechanism to stimulate the market into consuming as much bandwidth as we have available, we considered our entry into the enterprise market.
Why are new cables being built when there is plenty of capacity ?
Well, we are not seeing many other cables being built. What we are seeing are plans to build new cables. Which is not to say that one or more of these new cables won’t get built, but planning a cable and actually building it are very different things.
That said, new cables will always be planned and/or built in order to reduce price, enhance diversity and increase competition. That might not always be in-keeping with the utilization of already available capacity, but the motivations for cable builds vary quite greatly.
Tell us about the significant capacity that SEACOM will be adding in this decade
At the beginning of 2017, we upgraded the SEACOM submarine system to 1Tbps of bandwidth. We anticipate a bit of growth within the next 2 to 3 years, and as such, will be on standby to upgrade the system even further. The equipment that we are using to drive the cable system can allow us to add capacity as and when needed.
What is missing today in the eco-system to get to the same levels of internet usage as Europe ?
I believe that what is critically needed now is colocation in as many markets as possible. Without colocation, it is difficult to attract regional and global service and content providers, who have a direct impact on the improvement of internet access to any economy.
Other key factors such as open borders for regulation, international capacity, etc… will go a long way in improving the availability and quality of bandwidth between as many African countries as possible.
Why is Mombasa important as a transit hub for data, can Mombasa become the network hub for East Africa ?
Mombasa is an important location mainly because the ICT environment in Kenya is very progressive, making Kenya an ideal location to facilitate the development of the internet within the region. Kenya also lands a number of submarine cable that provide further connectivity within Eastern and Southern Africa, as well as Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
I think Mombasa has the potential to become the East African hub for telecommunications if it continues to encourage the development of the ecosystem that will build the African Internet.
Elements Driving Colocation Growth in Africa
It’s been coming! We saw the signs when the number of African broadband connections crossed the 300 million mark with a penetration rate of 31.2% representing 10.0% of the worlds total internet users. As of 2017, there were 160,207,000 Facebook users in Africa and 985 million mobile subscribers with 9 million new mobile subscriptions. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest growth rate in mobile subscriptions globally. In 2010, mobile penetration rate was approaching 50% and now forecasts indicate that close to 100% penetration will be achieved in 2021. This only places emphasis on the need for growth in the African Multi-Tenant Data Centre (MTDC) market that should see deeper adoption in current core markets and deeper penetration in more edge markets.
In Africa, Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya have been named as the leaders in the development of regional data centers achieving a faster level of growth than other nations according to a study by Invest in Data Center Africa.
Africa’s population is equivalent to 17% of the worlds total population, however there are approximately 49 colocation data centers in the entire continent – equivalent to 1% of the global share. Although the continent has always been cast as a mobile story, seeing a penetration rate of 43%, the transition to digitalising economies has lately been encouraging the development of carrier neutral facilities. Africa has seen tremendous success in the development of undersea cables connecting Africa to the rest of the world, terrestrial long distance cables and internet exchange points in most countries. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of colocation data centers to support the growing ICT industry.
Multiple factors have led to the development of data center growth in Africa, from lower fiber prices to the high rate of workload migration to the cloud, the rise of consumer and enterprise digital natives and growing user concerns over data privacy, security and sovereignty. All this has created totally foreseeable pressures on African connectivity networks that must be let out.
There has also been considerable interest and investment in Africa’s network and cloud infrastructure, the consistent rise on internet penetration is imperative for the development of software solutions like applications and services that in turn drive growth into local economies. There has been major interest and investment in Africa’s internet network and cloud infrastructure. Actually, that is an understatement, the race to connect Africa is nearing a stampede. And why not? As approximated by Frost and Sullivan, Kenya’s $5.5 million cloud market is set to grow to $40-50 million by 2019. Kenya comes fourth in Africa whose leader in cloud services provision is South Africa followed by Nigeria then Ghana.
African governments have also made sure to put forth policies and programs, like the switch from analogue to digital broadcasting that has taken full advantage of the fact that international submarine cables provide 20 times more international bandwidth now than in 2010. This effort has paid off massively, North Africa has experienced a 36% bandwidth increase and Sub-Saharan 39%.
Colocation data center service providers are right at the center of all this activity. They allow for the retailing of server, storage and bandwidth equipment. The drive by companies like icolo.io to build carrier neutral data centers right on African soil reflects the need for a growing end user base to have reliable, trustworthy networking and virtualization tools close to high density economic areas on the continent.
How exactly does all this investing in ICT infrastructure lead to actual socio-economic growth in Africa ? How is all this data center investment and growth tied to real life, day to day improvements in the business environment? Why is it important for the data centers to be carrier neutral?
Cloud computing liberates organizations from devoting precious resources in people and budget to activities that don’t directly contribute to the bottom line while still obtaining IT infrastructure capabilities. These capabilities include compute power, storage, databases, messaging, and other building block services that run business applications. When coupled with a utility-style pricing and business model, cloud computing promises to deliver an enterprise grade IT infrastructure in a reliable, timely, and cost effective manner.
This efficiency in technology enhances the speed of innovation and leads to an unprecedented acceleration in the introduction of new products within the economic ecosystems in which it’s introduced and adopted which fundamentally changes the way local markets work.
In most African countries, there is a demand for colocation data centers and the market has entered a new phase of steady growth. There are many factors driving the African data center colocation business into one of the hottest growth segments in the African ICT industry. The rise in broadband creates a higher demand in local cloud based services that will require world class infrastructure. This is where colocation data centers play a significant role in delivering affordable and better user experience as a result of less latency.
Africa’s Undersea and Terrestrial Cables
Submarine/undersea cables are laid on the ocean floor or a few feet under it. They connect continents and countries to the internet. Terrestrial cables on the other hand are used to extend this connectivity to first towns and cities within a country with a coastline and then to landlocked countries within a continent. Most continents are very highly connected within and without, but Africa still has some way to go in setting up the robust cable network required for economic growth and development.
As of 2017, we had over 1.1 million kilometres of undersea cables in active service globally. 95% of the planet’s communications go through undersea cables and the growth of data traffic isn’t set to slow down anytime soon. How much data? A lot!
Every nation in Africa is now connected to the rest of the world by undersea cables and connectivity within Africa by terrestrial cables is very well advanced. This makes the delivery of high speed, broadband internet and its commercial/technological capabilities a reality in Africa.
Africa’s total inbound international internet bandwidth reached 5.825 Tbps by December 2016, according to the ninth annual edition of the Africa Telecom Transmission Map published by Hamilton Research. All of Africa’s international bandwidth is supplied by submarine cables, terrestrial networks connected to submarine cables, or satellite.
The chart below shows that the total international bandwidth of 5.825 Tbps in 2016 was split between Sub-Saharan Africa, which increased by 21% to reach 3.319 Tbps, and North Africa which increased by 40% to reach 2.506 Tbps.
The landing of undersea cables in Sub-Saharan Africa brings the power of high speed and high bandwidth connectivity to Africa. It enables new services and products that were previously not possible due to bandwidth restrictions and contributes towards the macro-socio economic development of the region. The high capacity optic connectivity within Africa and the rest of the world has improved and the unit costs (capital and operational) for global connectivity are reduced, leading to increased profits, lower tariffs, and charged for the end user.
There are nine undersea cables landing in the East Coast of Africa, approximately 63,620KM cable length. SEACOM, the first undersea broadband cable along Africa’s eastern and southern coastline was launched in 2009. Years later, Africa’s growing access to international bandwidth is widely attributed to SEACOM which now connects South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda with the rest of the world via landing points in France and India.
Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy), a regional initiative by governments of Southern and Eastern African countries and their national telecommunication companies is owned and operated by sixteen African and international telecom operators and service providers and has rolled out landing stations in nine African countries providing high speed terrestrial connectivity to around a dozen landlocked nations. It has a capacity of 10 Terabits, the highest in Africa.
The number of fiber optic cables connecting Africa to international networks is increasing. Most of these networks are restricted to urban areas near the sea shores of coastal African countries but there has been marked effort by shareholders in the telecom industry to traverse the last mile and connect all of Africa through terrestrial fiber networks. This will accelerate the rate at which we join the rest of the world in the broadband era in line with the International Telecommunications Union’s objective – Broadband For All Challenge. Africa is a big continent spanning over 30.2 million square kilometres which means connecting it to high speed internet is not a task for a single entity. There are several new cables that have been initiated recently that are not only connecting corners of the continent left out by the initial infrastructure, but seeming to grow capacity with every installation. Listed below are some that promise to push Africa into greater connectivity:
- Djibouti Africa Regional Express (DARE)
- Pakistan East Africa Cable Express (PEACE)
- Africa1 Undersea Cable
- Liquid Sea
Africa’s international bandwidth is set to grow over the couple of years due to the implementation of new cables and increasing capacity in the old ones. 52 countries in Africa are now connected to the cable system either directly or by terrestrial cross border fibre optics.
Meet the Team Behind MBA1
“My journey at icolo.io has been super exciting! I joined the team at MBA1 when the building contained nothing but empty halls. I am privileged and honoured to have been part of this project, from the implementation of the design works to the state-of-the-art facility we now have. This has been the best professional learning opportunity of my life. I love how technical my job is, I spend a lot of my time around metals, cables, automated systems and machines. I absolutely enjoy being part of the operations team that is powering the modern world” – Timothy Kabue
Timothy, is an Electrical Engineering graduate from the University of Nairobi. Before joining icolo.io, he worked for a security systems company setting up and commissioning Local Area Networks (LAN), access control and IP based surveillance systems for corporate clients.
Timothy joined icolo.io as a junior engineer at MBA1. At the data center, he plays a vital role supervising contractors and customer installations. He has also taken part in the preparation of processes and procedures in alignment with PCIDSS and ISO27001 standards. Additionally, Tim’s roles include a wide range of tasks:
- Maintenance of all equipment at site e.g generators, CRACs, repairs and documenting the processes.
- Surveillance of the building and the equipment.
- Set up of new customers i.e powering their racks and setting up the cross connects.
- Responding to all alarms in the facility and fault finding.
- Monitor power usage in the data center and capacity planning.