Preparing for the video deluge

Lance Harris
By Lance Harris, freelancer
Johannesburg, 04 Nov 2014

As Oscar Pistorius waited for judgment to be handed down in his murder trial, SA was watching, and not just on television. Internet traffic flowing through NAPAfrica, the Internet exchange point (IXP) located in Teraco's data centre, leapt by 5Gbps as South Africans used a range of media, including video services, to see Pistorius' fate unfold.

Broadcasters, cloud providers and network operators across Africa are all looking at how they can work together to deliver video on-demand services.

Michele McCann, business development manager, NAPAfrica.

That's just one of the indications of the sort of pressure the companies that provide SA's ICT infrastructure backbone are experiencing as a result of soaring usage of YouTube, video conferencing and chat, video on-demand, media streaming, and corporate video applications such as e-learning.

Market research house Balancing Act says sub-Saharan Africa's video uploads have increased 40% year on year and cumulative views in the region are growing at 90%. "Broadcasters, cloud providers and network operators across Africa are all looking at how they can work together to deliver video on-demand services," says NAPAfrica's business development manager Michele McCann.

Teraco is currently talking to several content providers and broadcast industry vendors about making use of platforms such as NAPAfrica to bring video on-demand to life in sub-Saharan Africa. Teraco's aim is to allow service providers and content providers to peer at its data centres so they can distribute content throughout Africa at low latency and high availability.

No easy access

The result is that Teraco has needed to ramp up its investment in cabling, high-density power and cooling to cater for the growing traffic in its peering exchange. At NAPAfrica, it has gone directly to a 100Gbps network infrastructure, for example, to cater for bandwidth-hungry applications where many other organisations would be following a slower migration from 10Gbps to 40Gbps before even contemplating 100Gps.

On the telecoms side, South Africa's international connectivity and major metro networks are, to a large extent, ready for video services. But wider deployment of last-kilometre optical-fibre cable is essential to bring video services to more businesses and consumers in the years to come, says Reshaad Sha, chief strategy officer at Dark Fibre Africa (DFA).

"Fibre to the business is not available on a wide scale, but it is gaining momentum in the large business districts of our major cities," he says. "Consumers don't have easy access to last-mile fibre connectivity. They have a few more months, in some cases, and years in others, to go before they can easily consume video services."

DFA plans to connect up to 10 000 companies in the major business districts of SA's cities with fibre by May 2015. It will then start to connect the next 50 000 businesses. As demand increases, DFA will make targeted investments directed at delivering the underlying infrastructure for fibre to the home.