Tuesday 7 April 2020

New Uptime Record; New Traffic Record; and Raxio Expansion Plans

It's Q2 2020 and we have a lot of good news to share: We achieved a new uptime record, observed new peak traffic levels, and are expanding into Raxio's new carrier neutral data centre. Read on for details:

Coronavirus (COVID-19)
We would like to assure everyone that we are fully prepared to maintain operations during the lockdown period regardless of its duration. We have always had the ability to conduct most of our work remotely and the government has authorized a travel pass for us in order to accommodate any emergencies that require us to physically interact with our equipment.

Expansion Plans

We are excited to announce that we have signed a deal to extend our peering network into Raxio’s carrier neutral data center in Namanve. This will allow us to attract new peers, provide redundancy for the networks that rely on us, and make large-scale content and cloud deployments viable in Uganda.

To accomplish this, we will deploy a fully independent IXP at Raxio and interconnect it with our existing IXP at Communications House. This will allow us to offer a unified peering LAN that spans the two locations. Network operators will be free to peer at either, or both, as needed.

We believe this deal represents a significant milestone in the development of Uganda’s Internet ecosystem. Internet exchange points have a symbiotic relationship with carrier neutral data centers and we expect that this deal will catalyze a virtuous cycle of growth that will make the Internet significantly cheaper, faster, and more reliable for all.

Please visit Raxio's website for a copy of the press release.

New Stability Record: 99.994%
We’re extremely happy to report that we have achieved 99.99% uptime since taking direct control of our power and air conditioning.
This success would not have been possible to achieve without everyone’s support for our sustainability model -- so thanks to all once again!
Here are some graphs to demonstrate the UIXP’s reliability before and after:

BEFORE: 2018-06-01 to 2019-06-01
97.891% uptime (7d 17h 17m 46s of downtime)

AFTER: 2019-06-01 to 2020-04-02
99.994% uptime (26m 7s of downtime)

Note that the “BEFORE” data represents an extremely conservative downtime estimate as it does not account for partial outages including a multi-week CDN outage caused by an air conditioning system failure.

New Peak Traffic Record: 11Gbps
We recently observed the highest peak traffic levels ever recorded in the UIXP’s history:

However, the graph also indicates a significant reduction in peak traffic levels following the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) due to the Week 13 lockdown. We believe this occurred for the following reasons:

  • The lockdown closed businesses and schools which caused a mass migration of users away from uncapped fixed connections to pay-by-the-byte mobile connections while simultaneously evaporating disposable income.
  • Mobile Internet usage has less impact on the IXP because mobile carriers have on-net CDN cache nodes.

  • Many companies were not able to implement work-from-home solutions, and many popular video conferencing solutions route traffic via relay servers hosted in other countries.

Tax Challenges
While we are generally in good standing with the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), we have encountered an apparently insurmountable problem regarding the timing of our VAT payments that we thought was worth sharing.

URA expects companies to pay VAT when invoices are issued regardless of when payments are received. In other words, if we issue $100,000 worth of invoices in January, URA expects us to pay $18,000 before we receive any payments.

We cannot accommodate this for at least two reasons:
  1. We cannot pay URA with money we don’t have. We are in a similar situation to most new businesses in that we don’t have enough free cash available to make advance tax payments.
  2. We can’t force networks to pay because the UCC has prohibited us from doing so. This means that we cannot guarantee that we will be able to recover any advance tax payments even if we had enough free cash to make them.
In light of the above, we are unable to meet URA’s expectations and have opted to pay VAT based on when we receive payments instead. This unfortunately means that we must occasionally pay fines and perform additional administrative work when network operators claim VAT against invoices based on the date of the invoice.

We have attempted to lobby URA about this issue without success. If anyone has any suggestions for how to resolve this problem, please let us know. In the mean-time, we encourage network operators to file any VAT claims against our invoices using the date the payments are made instead of the invoice date.
We are happy to report that all but three non-pro-bono networks have agreed to participate in our sustainability model. We are actively working to find ways to encourage these networks to come on-board, but they are generally either unresponsive or actively refuse to pay. Our options are unfortunately somewhat limited as the UCC ordered us to provide free service to these networks beyond what is available in our free service tier even though we have made it clear that our paying members are unhappy subsidizing their service.

Cash Reserves
We successfully established cash reserves of $75,000 and have filed a board resolution that formalizes this. Any draw-down now requires majority approval from the board and a plan to replenish the reserves. It also requires the board to implement an emergency budget if the reserves fall below 75% of the target level for one year.

Regulatory Environment
We do not have any news to report regarding the UCC's proposed IXP licensing framework and related telecommunications regulations. There has been little movement on this issue, likely due to senior staffing changes within government agencies and the COVID-19 situation. However, we continue to seek an amicable way to resolve the issue and will provide updates if the situation evolves.

Governance Reform

We still have not received any feedback on the draft constitution proposed to the community in 2015 and again, in updated form, in 2018.

If you are interested in governance reform, please review the draft and submit feedback (or forward it to your legal teams for the same) so that we can move the process forward.
A copy of the draft proposal and a summary document can be found here: https://uixp.co.ug/documentation/governance-reform-updated-draft-memarts-2018-12

Note that we have hired an additional technology oriented legal resource and plan to work with them on future revisions of the draft constitution.

That’s all for now. If anyone has any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.