India’s fledgling digital economy and the need to ensure equitable internet access have increased the reliance on internet exchanges (IXs). Being a neutral facility, an IX enables content providers, content delivery networks (CDNs), cloud providers, internet service providers (ISPs), etc. to connect directly without an intermediary telco. Further, an IX can help drive fixed broadband services, propelling wireline broadband penetration in the country. The National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) is one such non-profit IX company enabling improved internet services in the country. NIXI was set up to facilitate the peering of ISPs among themselves for the purpose of routing domestic traffic within the country instead of taking it all the way to a foreign country, thereby ensuring better quality of service, reducing latency and reducing bandwidth charges for ISPs. Since 2003, NIXI has been working towards broadening internet technology by establishing IXs between ISPs and CDNs. In an interview with tele.net, Anil Kumar Jain, chief executive officer, NIXI, discusses the company’s role in India’s evolving internet landscape, the policy and regulatory support needed to scale up the presence of IXs, and the future outlook for the segment. Edited excerpts…
What are your views on India’s evolving internet landscape? What role are internet exchanges playing in taking forward India’s digital narrative?
The digital transformation journey in India started in 2015 with the launch of the Digital India Mission. Digital India is impacting every strata of society and benefitting every region in India. The internet is the backbone of the Digital India Mission. We are proud that India is one of the fastest internet-adopting nations, globally. People using mobiles, WhatsApp, YouTube, etc., can be seen everywhere. This journey will continue with the latest initiatives by the government, which include the PM Wi-Fi Access Network Interface programme, aimed at providing internet services in rural areas through Wi-Fi; a semiconductor policy for local manufacturing of semiconductor chips; the formation of an artificial intelligence policy; and a national language translation mission, to name a few. The country is working towards ensuring an open, safe, trusted and accountable internet for all.
NIXI is one of the internet infrastructure providers. We at NIXI are aiming to facilitate cost-effective internet deliveries, with easy availability and the best quality to both English-speaking and non-English-speaking populations.
What are NIXI’s initiatives for promoting content development and consumption in local languages?
NIXI is not involved in content creation per se. However, we are facilitating CDNs such as Google, Netflix, Facebook, Instagram and Microsoft to deliver their content to broadband consumers without any barriers. NIXI is getting CDNs onboarded on its IXs to deliver content to end-customers. This way, NIXI is facilitating the generation of additional content.
NIXI is offering domains in 22 official Indian languages. We are a part of a multi-stakeholder group whose aim is to provide internet access seamlessly to non-English-speaking populations as well as the illiterate. These efforts are also expected to help other countries that are facing similar issues. These efforts will help in not only increasing the uptake of the internet but in creating an atmosphere for new content creation in local languages.
What kind of policy and regulatory support is required to scale up IX services in India?
NIXI was founded in the year 2003 with the support of the Department of Telecommunications and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. The objective of NIXI is to provide a neutral IX, and reduce latency and costs for ISPs. This will enable the provision of affordable and quality internet to end broadband consumers. In the past 19 years of its journey, NIXI has established 35 IXs, which are serving ISPs and CDNs across the nation.
NIXI complies with all acts, directions, rules and guidance under the present regulatory regime and is committed to following all instructions issued by the government to conduct its business.
What issues does the country still face in terms of the internet and its accessibility? How does NIXI plan on reconciling them?
Although India is the largest internet-connected country in the world, we are also the world’s largest non-connected country in terms of the internet. This is because of the variance in population and affordability across India’s demographics. The government, along with various telecom service providers, ISPs, infrastructure providers and CDNs, are continuously providing the benefits of internet to the masses. As an infrastructure provider, NIXI is expanding its IXs to Tier II and Tier III cities, which will facilitate local ISPs in extending cost-effective internet services. These plans are also aimed at creating an internet ecosystem to provide employment in and around IX points.
How will the onset of 5G services alter India’s internet landscape?
India is all set to roll out the latest 5G mobile internet technology. The government is shortly going to auction the required spectrum. The proof of concept for 5G services is already being prepared through the testing of various India-specific applications by several telecom service providers and mobile original equipment manufacturers. High speed 5G internet with low latency is expected to not only improve the digital economy of India but also have a tremendous effect on the growth indices of the manufacturing, health, transport, financial, agriculture and several other innovative sectors.
In addition to expanding its reach of infrastructure to support 5G technology, NIXI is planning to support various start-ups that are expected to provide 5G-enabled, India-specific applications. Further, NIXI is committed to providing the required internet protocol addresses and domains (.in/.Bharat) to the industry, so that we as India do not leave any stone unturned in reaping the maximum benefits of 5G technology.
What are NIXI’s future plans and focus areas?
As stated earlier, NIXI is committed to supporting an open, safe, trusted and accountable internet for all Indians. We are also planning to ensure that there is inclusive internet growth, including the creation of an atmosphere for a safe internet by undertaking investments in cybersecurity. Moreover, NIXI is planning to take steps to minimise social disruption, which is one of the side effects of the internet as technology.