India’s fledgling digital economy has paved the way for increasing the reliance on internet exchanges (IXs). As India is way behind its global counterparts in terms of wireline broadband penetration, an IX can help drive fixed broadband services. Being a neutral facility, an IX enables content providers, content delivery networks (CDNs), cloud providers and internet service providers (ISPs), etc. to connect directly without an intermediary telco. Thus, IXs are playing a key part in India’s digital economy, increasing the affordability and quality of connectivity across the country. In an interview with tele.net, Sudhir Kunder, country director, DE-CIX India, discusses the role of IXs in India’s evolving digital space, the policy and regulatory support needed to scale up their presence, and the future outlook. Edited excerpts…
What role are IXs playing in taking forward India’s digital narrative?
A well-established exchange like DE-CIX is capable of accelerating internet adoption and assisting in the government’s Digital India initiative. It will benefit small and medium enterprises (SMEs), larger enterprises, ISPs, CDNs, and over-the-top (OTT) players by allowing them to enter new markets and thus expand geographically.
Digital business is the way of the future. Latency has become the new currency. As a result, digital infrastructure will be more important in the future. To reduce latency through secured-connectivity, a data centre and carrier neutral internet exchange with a nationwide licence, such as DE-CIX, is the only solution. The exchange also ensures greater internet resilience, stability, efficiency and quality at a lower cost. Being a part of the Digital India vision, DE-CIX is, and will continue to be, the conduit for bringing “Digital Everywhere, for Everyone”.
How will the infrastructure status of data centres granted recently impact the uptake of IXs?
The classification of data centres as infrastructure assets will make it easier for SMEs and enterprises to secure construction financing. This will also increase the number of data centres. In the near future, data centres will be built in hinterland cities, resulting in increased internet and data consumption. Eventually, there will be a need for fast, resilient and secure networks, which can be fulfilled by interconnecting with an internet exchange. This will also lead to more Indian communication service providers (CSPs) entering new markets. The interconnection platform, where the internet and cloud exchanges coexist across a single access port, will see a rise in activity as the number of data centres increase. According to us, the recent news about data centres not only ensures accelerated decision-making, but it also sets the stage for legally compliant exchanges like DE-CIX to serve the ecosystem better.
What kind of policy and regulatory support is required to scale up internet exchange services in India?
Policies that encourage cooperation amongst all stakeholders in the initial establishment process, the development of IXs along with fiscal incentives and a relook at roadblocks such as right of way (RoW) for infrabuilders are required. Apart from this, there is a need for policies that encourage competitive access to leased lines, which in turn will help lower the cost associated with connecting to an internet exchange point (IXP).
An acceptable growth-based governance model should be built for all players that comply with the technical requirements to facilitate the interconnection, ensuring delivery of interconnection links without any compromise on security. There is also a need to promote awareness regarding the need to connect all local carrier ISPs and content providers to IXPs and encouraging non-traditional members such as government networks, research and education networks. All layers of internet interconnected infrastructure ecosystems require incentives in order to ensure that the connectivity solutions that these ecosystems bring to the table are utilised to the last level and can reach all corners of the country.
What is the outlook for India’s evolving internet landscape? What will be the key trends in the internet exchange domain in the coming year?
Despite the rapid growth of the internet in India, we see a huge untapped potential. The thrust of the Indian government to go deeper and the aim of covering 600,000 villages as against the current coverage of 260,000 villages are clear indicators of the headroom.
I clearly see the development of new IX solutions that are affordable, scalable and can be deployed in rural areas, but managed centrally, as well as collaboration among key enablers to get the IX spread across the geography. We also see booking of interconnections with a click and the forming of enterprise-grade closed user groups. IXs are also facilitating and accelerating the adoption of connected cars.
We anticipate a massive shift from the current mode of quality of service compromising connectivity to onboarding at data centres and carrier-neutral IXs such as DE-CIX, which will simplify business while providing a cost-effective solution.