The Malta Internet Exchange
Press Conference: 7 September, 1999
Dr. Alex Mifsud, Chief Executive, Malta Internet Foundation
Mr. Robert Sultana, Executive Director, Computing Services Centre
Mr. Aldo Calleja, Chairman, ISP Subsection, Chamber of Commerce

The need to consolidate and harmonise services being offered to Internet users has long been felt.  In going some way to achieve this, The Malta Internet Foundation in collaboration with the University of Malta and the Internet Service Providers' Subsection of the Chamber of Commerce has set up The Malta Internet Exchange.

Commercial internet service provision in Malta was introduced during late 1995. Provision, from the very beginning, was pluralistic, with no single provider dominating a disproportionate section of the market. While Internet service providers (ISPs) were required to use Telemalta's (now Maltacom's) infrastructure, they were free to choose their provider of IP services.

This has led to healthy competition on the one hand, but to an absence of a common national backbone on the other.  An immediate consequence of this, is that communication between users of different (local) ISPs must pass through infrastructure (routers, lines) outside the country. This effectively makes such communication poorer in performance and more costly than would be the case had there been efficient and cheap connection directly between the local ISPs.

The new initiative targets precisely this issue, and provides a commercially viable solution which bolsters the healthy pluralistic and decentralised configuration of the current Internet service supply.

The Malta Internet Foundation, also known as NIC(Malta), was set up in June 1998 to administer and further develop the top-level Internet domain for Malta, but also "to seek, identify and engage in other activities related to the general development of the Internet in Malta".

NIC(Malta)'s vision for the Internet in Malta is centred around a community of users and providers of information, entertainment, educational material, communication and online access to commercial services. A key requirement for such a community to develop is cheap, fast and reliable access for the greatest possible number of users and providers.

A concrete contribution to this vision is a national IP backbone linking various service and content providers in a cost-effective manner. The availability of such a backbone will increase not only the quality, but also the scope and thereby the market for Internet services in Malta. On 7th September 1999, NIC(Malta) will be publicly announcing such a service, the Malta Internet Exchange, or MIX for short.

Over the past few months, work in partnership with the major ISPs operating in Malta has been underway in order to develop an operationally sound infrastructure, thereby producing a cost effective solution that will benefit the entire Maltese Internet community. Teaming up with NIC(Malta) offers several advantages: being an independent non-profit making organisation, NIC(Malta) has a commercially-neutral position within the Internet service provision market; consisting almost entirely of highly-technical computing professionals, it can react quickly to changing technologies and customer needs.

Close partnership with the University of Malta's Computing Services Centre has enabled NIC(Malta) to provide reliable operations and technical support. As a result, it can support the operation of the MIX by responding to calls from partners during and outside office hours through telephone, fax, email, pager or its web-site.

A key factor in the realisation of the MIX, is the participation of the ISPs who are supporting the initiative. By opening the connection to all commercial ISPs which obtain international connectivity directly from foreign providers, NIC(Malta) has ensured universal coverage whilst minimising the number of organisations  to be dealt with.

The MIX presently offers IP connectivity at bandwidth ranging from 64Kbs to 512Kbs. Connection to the Exchange is available at attractive rates from participating ISPs.

7 September, 1999