How Telkom Kenya Leverages Caching and Peering to Boost Mobile Data Speeds

Kebaso Mokogi
Kebaso Mokogi - MD, Telkom Kenya Carrier Services

Kebaso Mokogi

Telkom is planning to deploy higher capacity undersea cables that will see substantial improvement on its network, with the first phase of the project going live sometime in 2020. The higher capacity cables will also translate to increased supply that should effectively see price cuts in the running operations that rely on the infrastructure, as well as companies such as ISPs that leverage the facility to serve customers.

According to Kebaso Mokogi, Managing Director of Carrier Services at Telkom Kenya, the primary factor that is driving internet services demand in the country is mobile/internet penetration. For instance, by 2016, an average user could do just fine with 1 gig of data per month, but that amount will go as high as 5 GB per month by 2023.

Mr Kebaso states that Telkom is continuously expanding its network at the backbone with a high-speed corridor from Mombasa to Tororo, Uganda, with up to 10 terabit Tb/s of data transfer rate. This implies that the carrier can reliably move traffic from the coastal city to Western Kenya. Using a point of presence (POP) in Tororo, the telco can beam its capacity to the likes Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda.

A high-speed metro fibre infrastructure in Nairobi with a designed capacity of 10 Tb/s continues to serve customers in the region, but as reported previously, the carrier is in the process of augmenting the system with even more capacity from Djibouti.

“These developments give us an edge in the market because we have an extensive and resilient fibre infrastructure,” adds the Telkom’s Carrier Services Managing Director.

The telco, which serves enterprise and mobile, carrier and other ISPs has also implemented caching and peering to enable provide a more efficient and improved mobile data experience. In essence, the cache server introduced by one of the over-the-top players functions as a dedicated server that stores web pages and other content locally. As such, by placing previously requested information in temporary storage or cache, the server speeds up access to data and reduces the demand on a carrier’s bandwidth, which in this case is Telkom Kenya.

Sites such as Google and Facebook have cached their content to ensure users have an excellent day-to-day experience. The cached content is stored in Telkom’s data centres in Nairobi and Mombasa. Therefore, any request by users who are connected to its network, then access is faster as the requests are processed locally.

To put it differently, what Telkom has done is to explore peer-assisted content delivery as an economically viable option to traditional content delivery approaches. This has reduced the burden of user requests on content delivery servers.

“New content is fetched from the corporations and stored locally depending on demand. Storing content in our network from over-the-top players has been key to improving user experience,” reports Mr. Kebaso.

According to the MD, cache and peering strategies have been deployed to cope with the rapidly increasing video and gaming traffic, both downloaded and streamed, resulting from mobile internet usage. He mentions that the cache sits closer to the end user than the POP of a traditional content distribution network. The telco has also initiated partnerships with video-on-demand services.

To this end, Telkom has been able to hone internet use for its enterprise and mobile customers, as it has been successful in handling traffic. Telkom reports it has since seen low-friction between interactions for routine operations. Google and Facebook, on the other hand, have experienced fewer errors, leading to performance improvement for users. Moreover, the caching processes are automated because caching algorithms decide which content to cache. The cache collaboration system then determines how cacheable items are propagated throughout the Telkom network.

The entire strategy has, lastly, enabled the carrier price its data products competitively (Telkom has tens of data plans that meet a variety of usage patterns) as it makes substantial budget cuts from caching and peering.