How Local Operators Can Cooperate by Interconnecting through IXPs
When we talk about Internet user connection quality, the first thing that usually comes to mind the last mile, in other words, how users connect to their Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Surely everyone is aware of new developments in this area, such as the deployment of 5G technology. But do we know what actually happens once our bytes make it to the ISP? Well, they still have a long way to go before reaching their destination. This means that the role of interconnection is just as important for the quality of a user’s connection as their connection to their ISP, which is why we also need to understand and work towards having connectivity between operators at the local and national level.
Together with LACNIC, in 2020 we began to analyze interconnection in Latin America and the Caribbean by studying global BGP routing tables provided by RIPE NCC collectors. In this report, we observed that, in some cases, traffic between nearby countries is still being sent to distant Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) located in the United States or Europe. This information may help detect opportunities for improvement and lead to the establishment of new peering agreements and connections to IXPs. However, we still needed to research another aspect that is key to understanding the quality of interconnection in the countries of our region, namely, how network operators connect to each other within the same country. This is why we also began to analyze the BGP routing tables of local IXPs, as this allows us to gain more in-depth information about connectivity at the regional level, and also to better understand how local operators can cooperate by interconnecting through IXPs.
Unlike the analysis of the BGP tables provided by global collectors, an analysis based on querying the tables made available by IXPs poses an additional challenge: IXPs must first publish those tables. Some Internet Exchange Points in the region are already collaborating with PCH, which operates route collectors at more than 100 IXPs around the world. Data from these route collectors is made available publicly for the benefit of the Internet’s operational and research communities. Even so, the number of participating IXPs is not high enough for this information to be representative of the region. To solve this problem, LACNIC also began to encourage the deployment of collectors within the framework of their agreement with LAC-IX and the Internet Society, which supports the IXPs of the region by strengthening their infrastructure. Thus, we managed to obtain data for seven different countries: Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Paraguay. While the data we have is still not fully representative of the entire region, this first study also produced very interesting information — while observing the area of influence of the IXPs, we found that there is some degree of regional interconnection, although there is still much room for improvement. Even though we do not have data from routing tables in Brazil, we observed that it is one of the most interconnected countries, as all but the smallest IXPs we surveyed reach Brazilian operators.
Countries included in this study and number of IXPs, based on available information
We also found that well-established IXPs have good coverage (around 70%) when compared to global collector tables. This means that these Internet Exchange Points manage to connect the vast majority of autonomous systems registered in a country and that they are active on the global Internet. Yet the data is not as encouraging when one considers only the IPv6 protocol, a further reason to reinforce the commitment to the deployment of this protocol.
The data and conclusions detailed above are available for download in our report. As more collectors become available at various IXPs, more comparisons will be possible, as will obtaining strategic data to uncover new interconnection opportunities. This is why we encourage IXPs across the region to install a BGP collector and publish this data.