THE Caribbean has been ushered into a more advanced phase of digital evolution following the launch of a new Internet exchange point, or IXP, in St Barths.
An IXP is a piece of physical infrastructure that allows network operators to interconnect and exchange traffic locally without having to resort to expensive international routes.
The newly launched Saint Barthélemy Internet exchange point (SBH-IX) will facilitate the interconnection of the networks of the internet service providers within the territory.
That increased local routing of network traffic is expected to translate into tangible improvements in network performance, thus improving connectivity and quality of service for network users locally, regionally and internationally.
Vice-president of the territorial council, Collectivité of St Barthélemy, Maxime Desouches, said, "Today, the Internet is ubiquitous and Internet access has become an essential service. Much in the same way that everyone needs water or electricity, digital communication services are essential. We have a responsibility to develop the Internet and make it more accessible, not only to our population but also to our visitors."
He added, "because we are a small market, we have taken the lead in this initiative, and the Collectivité will continue to support the establishment of the infrastructure required in order to make access equitable for all prospective service providers on an impartial and neutral basis, so that the Internet access can be made available to all users."
The SBH-IX launch comes under the auspices of the CaribIX project, which is coordinated by the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU).
Business development manager at the CTU Gary Kalloo noted "the commissioning of the SBH-IX heralds a major step towards ensuring secure and resilient critical Internet infrastructure on the island of Saint Barthélemy. It bears the promise to enhance end users' experience and to stimulate the digital economy on the island."
Fabrice Querrard, territorial councillor in charge of ICT, Collectivité of Saint Barthélemy, further added that the new exchange is also a critical component of the territory's disaster risk reduction strategy.
"The implementation of the Internet exchange point on the territory provides an additional opportunity to reinforce the resilience and quality of its digital communication infrastructure. The possibility of locally exchanging internet traffic will also offer our population the opportunity to preserve access to local services in the event of a break in the submarine cable servicing the island."
The launch was followed by the signing of an IXP memorandum of understanding (MOU), which signifies the willingness of the IXP participants to begin peering.
"There is no Internet without collaboration, and there can be no internet exchange point without collaboration. SBH-IX is a team result," said Eve Riboud, CEO, Dauphin Telecom.
"The establishment of an IXP allows content delivery networks, such as Amazon, Akamai and Cloudflare, to set up on the territory, which in turn allows users of the Internet to access those respective services faster and more reliably," said Antoine Querrard, CEO, Solutech.
The CaribIX project also aims to set up Internet exchange points in Saint Martin and Guadeloupe, and promises to deliver better Internet speed, security and service quality across the three territories.
In May, a CTU team of Internet development experts visited Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin and Guadeloupe to conduct strategic consultations in all three territories, in order to provide technical guidance on setting up and growing the new Internet exchange points.
The CaribIX project received funding from the INTERREG Caraïbes programme, co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund of the European Union. It was formally launched in a virtual ceremony in March and is expected to run until October.