The heart of the Belgian Internet celebrates 25th anniversary

This month, BNIX (Belgian National Internet eXchange) celebrates its 25th anniversary. BNIX was set up in 1995 by Belnet and started at the time - as the Internet was slowly emerging - with six participants and one Point of Presence. 25 years later, 58 participants are connected to the platform and BNIX has three Points of Presence (Interxion in Zaventem, LCL in Diegem and CenturyLink in Evere).

Faster and more efficient data traffic

As of 2020, BNIX supports large data flows, with an average traffic of 208 Gbit/s this year, calculated until the end of August. The total volume in this period amounted to 463 petabytes. The highest peak in traffic so far was 456 Gbit/s. This was achieved during the week of 18 May 2020, when traffic on the platform increased dramatically due to large-scale homeworking during the lockdown. By way of comparison, this is an increase by a factor of 22,800 compared to 1995, when the maximum bandwidth of the BNIX platform was 20 Mbit/s.

The general public might not be familiar with BNIX, but it plays a crucial role in the Belgian Internet. BNIX improves the speed and quality of Internet traffic between Belgian networks of major Internet providers on the one hand (including Telenet, Proximus, Orange, VOO and Belnet) and content providers on the other (including Facebook, Netflix, Amazon Web Services and Akamai). In concrete terms, this means that BNIX allows end users to exchange Internet traffic with customers from other providers more quickly and efficiently. A wide range of hosting companies and large firms are also connected to the BNIX platform.

New platform

"Since its inception in 1995, BNIX has gone on to become a major player in the Belgian Internet, setting itself apart by its performance and stability. Both in terms of number of participants and traffic, the platform has grown year after year", confirms Dirk Haex, Technical Director of Belnet. "We continue to invest in BNIX, and among other things, we are preparing for its future development, in the context of a new business model for BNIX. Our current platform has been operational since 2016 and still has more than sufficient capacity, but we are staying proactive and looking further ahead, given that data flows will only continue to increase in the coming years".

Pierre Bruyère, Director of Belnet when BNIX was set up and now Chairman of Belnet's Management Committee and that of the Federal Science Policy (Belspo), looks back fondly on 25 years of BNIX. "By incorporating BNIX within Belnet, this infrastructure has benefited the entire Internet community in Belgium for a quarter of a century. We resolutely wanted to avoid being in a situation where we would only be involved with major companies. We also wanted to forge relationships with smaller ISPs, because they could and still can be close to their user community through BNIX".

Henri-Jean Pollet, founder of ISP Perceval, has been a participant from the very beginning. "When I founded Perceval in 1989, the internet was just emerging, and we were one of the very first ISPs for businesses. There already were a few internet providers though, including Belnet, but interconnection was lacking. It’s hard to imagine today that in those days, if you wanted to send an e-mail to someone who was connected to another network - even if he was your neighbor - that data had to pass through the United States. Belnet was the first to see that this could be done differently and set up BNIX, which has set itself apart ever since thanks to short, personal lines, optimum interconnectivity and technical competence. Belnet and BNIX have both been crucial to the development of the Internet in Belgium".

Some highlights in the 25th anniversary of the Belgian Internet Exchange:

  • BNIX, which in the early years was still called 'X-router', grew from 6 participants in 1995 to 58 in 2020. The first participants were Innet, Interpac, IBM Global Network, Telecom Finland, Perceval and Belnet.
  • Over the years, the platform has proven to be extremely reliable and stable, thanks to continuous investments and innovations.
  • In 2001, BNIX became a co-founder of the European Internet Exchange Association (Euro-IX).
  • The corona crisis pushed BNIX traffic to unprecedented volumes, with peaks up to almost 500 Gbit/s.

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