Prior to Kenya’s, there was no IXP on the African continent between Morocco and South Africa. In early 2000, the association of Kenya’s ISPs, called TESPOK, undertook to organize a neutral, non-profit IXP for its members.
After nearly a year of preparatory work, including the design and implementation of a capable technical operation, funding model, and legal framework, the KIXP was launched in late November 2000, located in Nairobi. Almost immediately, the incumbent operator Telkom Kenya filed a complaint with the regulator, Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) arguing that the KIXP violated Telkom Kenya’s exclusive monopoly on the carriage of international traffic. Within two weeks, the CCK concluded that the KIXP required a license, and ordered that it be shut down as an illegal telecommunications facility.
Until KIXP, all Internet traffic in Kenya was exchanged internationally. Roughly 30% of upstream traffic was to a domestic destination. During the two weeks of KIXP’s operation, measurements indicated that latency was reduced from an average of 1200 – 2000 milliseconds (via satellite) to 60-80 milliseconds (via KIXP). Likewise, monthly bandwidth costs for a 64 kbit/s circuit dropped from US$ 3375 to US$200, and for a 512 kbit/s circuit from US$9546 to US$650.
In response to the CCK’s closure order, the Kenyan ISPs argued that the KIXP was a closed user group, and therefore would be legal under the Kenyan Telecommunications Act. Also, they noted that the local exchange of domestic Internet traffic does not contravene Telkom Kenya’s international monopoly, as all international traffic would continue to flow over its international links. Telkom Kenya’s opposition to KIXP was fierce, fed by the fear of losing a significant portion of its international leased line revenues.
After nearly a year of intensive efforts, including public pressure, threat of litigation and private diplomacy, TESPOK finally received the approval of CCK in the form of a license, granted in November 2001. The commission’s licensing order represented a fairly dramatic turn- around in the CCK’s thinking, stating: “An IXP is not an international gateway but a peering facility that enables ISPs to exchange local traffic. KIXP went live on 14th February 2002 having actively interconnected 5 Kenyan ISPs, with 8 others in the process.
To date there are 35 members already peering at the KIXP ranging from ISPs, government networks, education networks , the ccTLD Operator, Internet Backbone Gateway Operators, mobile operators and Value Add Services Providers. KIXP has in place as value add services to the industry three DNS root servers, Routing looking glass, Network Time Synchronization Server, Global Google Cache and various security monitoring tools for the Industry CSIRT.