IX Liverpool

General Questions

The majority of the “major intersections” of the Internet in the UK– called Internet Exchanges – are located within London.  There are a small number of other internet exchanges around the UK, but none in Merseyside; the nearest is IX Manchester.

So, for example, if someone in Liverpool is using the Internet to communicate with someone else in Liverpool, it is the norm for the data to go Liverpool-London-Liverpool due to the lack of local interchanges.  Most communication outside the UK follows a similar route, leading to delay and resilience issues (latency).  Importantly, this also increases costs for local communications businesses and Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

This new development in Liverpool will help overcome these drawbacks.

Building an internet exchange is not a vast creator of jobs in itself. The amount of jobs directly arising from this venture will be less than 10, but to be honest that is the wrong way of looking at it. If we build the infrastructure for a digital economy to thrive here in Merseyside, then the longer-term number could be thousands as organisations choose Liverpool/Merseyside to locate their internet dependant business.

Another way to look at it: how many jobs will be lost if we don’t?

We think timing is everything, and right now Liverpool needs to begin the groundwork in building a local exchange. If it doesn’t, it faces being left behind as other cities race ahead with better Internet access and connectivity.

A Liverpool internet exchange won’t change our lives overnight, instead, it will pave the way forward for better connectivity both from homes and the businesses we work in, it will even help bring public services online faster and make it easier to share information across society.

The company is owned and run by its members as a not-for-profit venture. At some point the members will appoint a day-to-day management team to handle everything from the administration to the typical technical tasks of running an internet exchange.

IX Liverpool was started in January 2016 by its founding members, who came together to form an internet exchange as they believed that in the near future, they will have network traffic to exchange with each other, while wanting to start an internet exchange so that once running it could benefit the rest of the local community. Each member elected a director to serve on the board as that member’s representative.

IX Liverpool will be initially funded by the founding members who will have a small budget for marketing and promotion and the setting up of a very basic exchange; this is very similar to how the likes of the London Internet Exchange started. Once established, we will begin a charging scheme for members of the exchange, to the cost of around £1,000 p.a.

Members would typically be content providers, ISPs and connectivity providers who find it beneficial to exchange traffic and join an exchange.

IX Liverpool won’t directly be able to bring down prices for internet access as such, but our exchange will help lower the costs for ISP’s locally.  As an internet exchange will allow those ISP’s to exchange traffic with others for free, then with this cost removed they may wish to pass the savings on in new packages or services to customers in the longer term.

Of course they may not to choose to reduce their prices, but generally, local competition should spot these opportunities and offer lower costs to consumers and businesses due to the lower infrastructure costs, effectively passing on these savings of which others will have to match in order to stay competitive.

A good example of this is Hyperoptic who have recently begun rolling out 1GB broadband in Liverpool, whom are taking advantage of regulatory changes in the Communications Act, competing directly alongside BT, offering a better service for a lower cost.

Technical Questions

The advantages of Internet exchange points include:

  • Allowing high-speed data transfer
  • Reducing latency
  • Providing fault tolerance
  • Improving routing efficiency
  • Improving bandwidth

The physical infrastructure includes one or more high-speed network Ethernet switches. The traffic exchange in an IXP is enabled by the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). The traffic exchange is managed through a mutual peering agreement conformed to by all ISPs. The ISPs normally specify the routes through the peering relationship. They may choose to route the traffic through their own addresses or addresses of other providers in the network. In some scenarios, the IXP serves as a backup link to allow traffic to pass through in case of a direct link failure.

The operational costs of an IXP are often shared among all the participating ISPs. For sophisticated exchange points, ISPs are charged a monthly or annual fee based on the port type and traffic volume.

The introduction of an exchange won’t change things performance wise overnight, but instead allow a better more efficient and effective route between different networks.  Some networks would still take the usual path and you would not see any improvement, but in the longer term, content providers, ISP’s and others would join the exchange in order to be closer to their end users.

An example could be the likes of Facebook, Google or Youtube putting their systems directly in the exchange so to serve the content locally.  This means that when you watch say a YouTube Video, it could be getting streamed locally, instead of going across to Ireland, or even worse the Atlantic.  Normally the longer the route the more latency, which means the current situation of videos stopping and starting, interruptions and unreliability.

Another good example would be the BBC installing “edge caching” locally, so that BBC iplayer programs downloaded in the Liverpool region are in fact served from Liverpool and not from London or Manchester.  This would mean faster high quality downloads for us consumers, while the BBC lower their costs by not having to serve the whole of Liverpool out of London – everyone wins!

The performance of any exchange is very much dictated by all its members, so if everyone comes on board that we want to, we’ll have a high performance, low cost and resilient, reliable and scalable internet connectivity here in the Merseyside region, much better then we have now, but ultimately, it’s up to our members, it’s needs to be worthwhile for them to do this, just as much as we want them to do it, they would want to see a tangible benefit for the costs of doing it.

Membership Questions

We’ve only just started IX Liverpool and have not yet put together a schedule of fees, however, suggested fees are around £1,000 per year per member. Anyone who feels it is a benefit to join IX Liverpool can join.  Please bear in mind that only organisations can join as a member, we are not a traditional membership institution, we are a mutual that means we are owned by our members, so by joining, you will own a part of IX Liverpool, participate in votes, elected the board and decide on the future of IX Liverpool.

Membership is for technical companies requiring a technical connection into the exchange we are building. There are technical requirements that must be met, but we or our community can help with this if required.

Getting Involved

Yes, please contact us, we are always on the lookout for volunteers! See below for just come of the people we are needing for IX Liverpool :

  • Website designers, content creators, bloggers etc
  • Marketing/promotion people
  • Sys admins/people with BGP/networking experience
  • Administration people, people to handle membership enquiries/signups
  • People to become supporters, (by simply giving us a quote and a photo)

Just get in touch with us to find out more!

Volunteers yes!, we have no income currently so cannot pay staff, plus we are a not-for-profit company so we need people to help out for the good of the internet who believe in what we are trying to do.  Please do come on board and be part of the great thing we are doing here in Liverpool!

Yes, please contact us, we are always on the lookout for volunteers!