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The 19th Middle East Network Operators Group Meeting and Peering Forum (MENOG 19) recently ended on a high note in Lebanon, after participants from across the region and beyond spent two days discussing the most pressing issues currently facing the internet and communications industry. The regional forum brought together 250 key players in the region’s internet network operations, along with 100 remote participants, for two meeting days on 3-4 April in Beirut.

Ahead of the meeting, RIPE NCC and ISOC held two training sessions aimed at growing participants’ knowledge of Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), as well as IPv6 security, measurement tools, routing and peering.

A major concern at the event was the lack of progress in peering and interconnection across the Middle East, with less than half of the countries in the Middle East having an Internet Exchange Point (IXP) within their borders.

Peering is the direct exchange of Internet traffic from one network to another. This bypasses costly and distant third-parties, which can make a huge difference to the cost and performance of the Middle East Internet. But while everyone benefits from an internet ecosystem in which peering is common, it requires a change in perspective from many networks that often benefit from a more restrictive stance. Peering is also facilitated by IXPs, which provide a physical location in which networks can interconnect their infrastructure to allow for traffic exchange.

Khalid Samara, MENOG Programme Committee Chair, said, “We welcome this year’s expansion of MENOG to address peering as part of the summit covering 14 countries in the region. MENOG has now become MENOG Meeting and Peering Forum, which effectively throws the spotlight on key issues concerning peering and interconnection in the region. The Internet Exchange Point is one function in the Middle East Internet community that has yet to see its full potential”.

Alex Pawlik, Managing Director of the RIPE NCC, said, “It is an exciting time to be at MENOG. We’ve witnessed the growth of the community over the years, and now with the integration of a peering forum into the format, we think MENOG is well-placed to drive development of the Internet across the region. It is great to see an influx of new MENOG members, who can agree on the importance of a smooth transition to IPv6 as IPv4 nears its end. MENOG provides a platform for local operators to come together and talk with one another – which is when good things start to happen.”

Imad Kreidieh, Chairman and CEO of OGERO, said, “We were pleased to host MENOG 19 as part of our continuing efforts to enhance the Internet and telecom infrastructure and services in the country. I am proud to say that Lebanon is the third country in the region that has started implementing IPv6 and we will soon apply it to hasten the Internet speed in the country. We were proud to provide state of the art IPv6 connectivity to the meeting, where IPv6 is a reality at OGERO and everyone should be ready in Lebanon for this new experience by end of the year.”

Other plenary sessions discussed topics on network engineering and operations such as IPv4 exhaustion, IPv6 deployment, network security, and domain names. A range of industry leaders and key stakeholders attended the meeting, including high-level representatives from organisations such as OGERO, Orange, China telecom, STC, STE, Netflix, Google, Cloudflare, Facebook, Akamai, PCH, Linx, DE-CIX, Sparkle, ISOC, American University of Beirut and Lebanese University.

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