SALT Wireless granted internet exchange point licence

OfReg CEO, Malike Cummings and SALT Wireless CEO and founder, Blair Lilford on Friday, 19 March, when the IXP licence was granted.

Following the release of the regulatory framework for internet exchange points (IXPs) earlier this month, SALT Wireless has been awarded the first IXP licence in Cayman.

IXPs are physical locations with the technical infrastructure to exchange internet traffic between the different networks of internet service providers.

At the moment, the closest IXP is based in Miami, Florida, so that local internet traffic moving from one local internet provider to another has to be exchanged off island before being routed back to Cayman.

Utility regulator OfReg issued a determination earlier this month that mandates all internet providers exchange local internet traffic locally through an IXP.

The advantage of local peering is a faster, more secure and cheaper connectivity.

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The new regulatory framework dictates that the IXP has to be run by an organisation that is independent from internet service providers and hosted at a neutral site.

The IXP has to be operated on a not-for-profit basis. Operating costs are going to be audited on a regular basis with the cost divided among all the internet service providers as the users of the facility.

The IXP is allowed to accept content delivery systems to generate revenue. Content delivery systems (CDNs) like YouTube, Facebook, Spotify or Netflix, could access an internet exchange point to host content locally so that, for example, Netflix movies in Cayman could be streamed from a local server.

“We have made initial contact with some of the CDNs in the US,” Blair Lilford, CEO and founder of SALT Wireless, told the Cayman Compass.

He said the company will continue these conversations to see “whether we can entice them to come to the island and put their equipment down here”.

However, there is no guarantee that CDNs will come to Cayman, given that the population is comparatively small.

The main reason SALT Wireless applied for a licence is to bring new, modern technology to the island.

“First and foremost, we need an IXP,” Lilford said, adding that it was a much-needed technology that was long overdue.

The main idea is to keep local data on island, which brings several advantages.

For instance, if the Maya-1 cable connection between Cayman and the US, as well as the rest of world, went down, traffic between local providers could still continue.

Local peering also lowers the utilisation of the subsea cables and that would be a good argument for internet users to get more bandwidth for less money, Lilford said.

“In the coming months, the public will experience the benefits of having an IXP and we look forward to seeing how this peering implementation will help provide further opportunities for sustainable economic growth.”

Although the current framework for IXPs does not cover internet service provider redundancy, it is technically possible, in case of a service interruption, to route the users of one provider to another until the fault is fixed.

“We would be able to facilitate that,” the Salt Wireless CEO said. “It is a just a matter of working out agreements with each of the ISPs.”

The company plans to have several IXP locations on island for redundancy reasons.

The first location will be the Camana Bay Dart data centre, mainly because all internet providers are already based there. That will lower the cost of establishing fibre connections to the sites.

When the IXP can become operational will depend on how quickly Salt Wireless can get the necessary equipment on island. Currently, some hardware vendors suffer from lengthy delays because of COVID-related supply chain and shipment issues.

“I hope that within six months, we can have it online, hopefully sooner,” Lilford said.

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