The British Virgin Islands (BVI) expects to launch shortly the first regional interconnection exchange point (IXP) in the English-speaking Caribbean, a spokesperson for the BVI's Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) told BNamericas.
"The BVI IXP is currently at the final stages of implementation and should hopefully start exchanging traffic this week, barring any unforeseen challenges," the spokesperson said, asking not to be named.
According to the spokesperson, the IXP started as a collaborative effort by an industry-led working group with the TRC acting as a facilitator.
To date, the necessary administrative and technical agreements have been drafted and agreed upon, a site selected (donated by the government IT department), equipment sourced (donations from Packet Clearing House and the TRC), and backhaul links set up from the two initial participants.
The initial participants are Cable & Wireless Communications (LIME) and CCT Global Communications, and they have already traded the relevant routing information and are currently doing the final testing, the spokesperson said.
There are five IXPs in the Caribbean, located in Curaçao, St Maarten, Haiti, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Having a local IXP, or delivering traffic/content domestically instead of sending it through international connections, is seen as having a range of benefits.
According to a document provided by the TRC, these benefits include providing a backup for internet access when international connectivity is lost and increasing quality and speed of traffic delivery.
The cost of delivering content is expected to drop drastically, which could encourage telcos to invest more in other services, as well as the development of local content and related businesses.
There are also privacy issues. Keeping content local reduces the likelihood of illegal interception of traffic, which is important for the BVI as an international financial center, according to the document.
Having an IXP also makes the territory more attractive for providers of international capacity to sell to local providers and puts the Virgin Islands on the map as a domain name.
The process of setting up the IXP in BVI started in September 2009, with a working group meeting on a regular basis since February 2010.
The process was expected to have been finished before the end of last year. However, certain "challenges" related to the two participants slowed the process.
As a result, the TRC introduced the Telecommunications Code (Part 2) (Internet Traffic Exchange), which mandated that an IXP be implemented by January 6, 2011.
"This was done to ensure a level playing field for all involved and that everything is done to standards," the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson added that the Caribbean Telecoms Union had been helpful with the process, providing technical expertise and connecting the TRC with resources for expediting certain activities, such as contacts within the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) for obtaining anonymous system (AS) numbers.
Packet Clearing House also helped provided expertise and hardware.