Franck Simon, managing director of France-IX, discusses plans for growing its Marseille hub and assisting the development of internet exchanges in Africa.
CommsMEA: What does France-IX do exactly?
Simon: We are actually the biggest internet exchange in France. We were created just over three years ago and the reason for the project was to gather the existing internet exchanges that used to be in France and to have a single one which is stronger and has more visibility from foreign countries. In fact to begin with we deployed hubs around Paris and several months ago we set up a hub in Marseille because this is the place for our customers with the cables running here. We want to make sure that we can attract traffic from North African players but also South African, and also people from the Middle East and Asia.
CommsMEA: Explain your involvement with Africa.
Simon: Submarine cables arrive in Marseille but the traffic will not stop in Marseille itself. We want to make sure that Marseille is not only a point where traffic is going through but where traffic stops. That is why we have been participating in a lot of meetings in Africa during the last few months, and we are also working on a programme that was activated by the African Union and Internet Society which aims to set up internet exchanges in Africa. We are participating in a training programme for African countries to have their own internet exchanges and to manage IP transit. We want to make sure that Marseille may be a gateway for such countries.
CommsMEA: Will you actually establish infrastructure in Africa?
Simon: We will not actually set up infrastructure in Africa ourselves. We will keep our infrastructure in France but we help African countries to set up their own infrastructure because we have the experience for it. That is why we help with projects to set up IXs in Africa, but we don’t want to set up wholesale. We want to make sure that they do it on their own but we help them. The training programme was activated just recently with representatives from the ministry of telecom but with support from regulators and operators and ISPs, so all the players were gathered together in the same room with the idea to set up this exchange.
CommsMEA: What do you see as the main growth areas that you can look at right now?
Simon: For now the traffic we carry is only pure data, so what we are going to look at from 2013 onwards is how we can provide other services on the exchange, and make sure that we can carry any type of traffic. We want to make sure that we can bring all sorts of traffic to the exchange – any traffic coming from mobile and laptops. We want to attract carriers in order help the players come to Marseille. We have a reseller programme because for example foreign ISPs may not have the infrastructure to reach such locations alone. They need to have a partner, such as a bigger player than themselves. So we have a reseller programme to facilitate this.