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Building a Strong Digital Ecosystem in the Middle East

An AMS-IX Story

Hani Askar

Hani Askar

Chief Global Business Officer, Batelco

In the summer of 2019, AMS-IX helped Batelco start a new Internet Exchange in Manama, Bahrain. Hani Askar, Chief Global Business Officer at Batelco, shares his thoughts about Batelco’s partnership with AMS-IX and the launch and development of Manama-IX.

Why did Batelco build an Internet Exchange in Manama?

Batelco has invested heavily in the expansion and development of its backbone infrastructure, including cable systems, Data Centers, Internet exchanges and IP networks, to enable hassle-free interconnectivity catering to the ever-growing regional data growth.

As part of our efforts to support Bahrain’s development as a transit hub for Internet traffic, our strategy includes attracting more traffic to our network and promoting continuous growth. In line with our goals, we established Manama-IX, a neutral internet traffic exchange located in Manama, Bahrain’s capital in 2019, in partnership with AMS-IX.

Why did you partner with AMS-IX to build an Internet Exchange?

We chose AMS-IX due to its strong reputation and because our priorities are aligned. Our joint goal is to improve Bahrain's digital infrastructure and increase internet traffic to support a vibrant society. We are proud to have created one of the best internet exchanges in the region in just a few years.

Batelco's decision to establish an exchange in the capital of its home country is rooted in Bahrain's historical significance as a central point of trade for countries in the Arabian Gulf. We see developing a transit hub as an opportunity, given that Bahrain is surrounded by a total of 400 million people in neighbouring countries. The value of an exchange lies in its connected networks and related services and today the majority of all Bahrain operators are connected to the Manama-IX.

In addition to Manama-IX, we have invested over USD 200 million in submarine and terrestrial cables to expand network capabilities and better serve customers, as well as supporting our expansion goals. We are involved in a few subsea cable projects connecting Bahrain to the East and to the West.

What are the next steps in developing the IX?

Manama-IX is a growing product and our collaboration with AMS-IX will enable us to onboard major Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) onto our peering platform, which in turn will allow members access to an extensive range of content in Bahrain. This will then facilitate the growth of our infrastructure as we attract more Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to peer regionally as part of Batelco's transit-and-hub strategy.

How is the exchange developing so far?

Although there are a few other internet exchanges in the region, our exchange Manama-IX, which is only four years old is achieving year-on-year growth of approximately 7% and has reached the highest traffic peak (over 500GE) in the Gulf region. Our success can be attributed to the exchange's superior performance in gaming and social media, low latency traffic, and user experience, which have been important factors in attracting major operators from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar as well as Bahrain. Kuwait for example is one of the largest users for gaming content and social media. Previously the only option was to connect to Europe to fetch the traffic, but today they have an option just milliseconds away from them, which is Manama-IX, and as a result users can enjoy the short paths and low-latency connectivity from Bahrain.

What are your expectations for the future?

We are enthusiastic about the future of our exchange and are dedicated to enhancing its growth and efficiency to deliver more value to our growing customer base. Through expanding our network and infrastructure, we have been able to lower prices and improve traffic flow, which ultimately benefits our customers. Our objective is to differentiate our internet exchange by introducing new services such as mobile peering, expanding our footprint, and broadening our product line to serve additional countries.

Together with our esteemed partner AMS-IX, we are eager to continue working towards attracting more traffic to Manama-IX, to enrich the platform and connect communities within the region and beyond.

Batelco appreciates its relationship with AMS-IX and we look forward to exploring new opportunities for collaboration.

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