With a view to accelerate the pace of digital transformation and efficient digital delivery in rural and semi-urban areas, RailTel is planning to set up several edge data centres in different parts of the country jointly with partners. This new initiative of RailTel will give boost to government’s mission of digital India.

Having such kind of facility at the edge would enable faster performance and lower latency as organisations will not have to move the data to far-flung data centres to process it. RailTel is seeking partners to establish such edge data centres in the railway premises/land across 102 locations especially tier-II and tier-III towns. The prospective business associates/partners should be a company registered in India. This activity will entail an investment opportunity of around Rs 5 billion.

The process to establish these edge data centres has been set in motion with the floating of Expression of Interest (EOI) inviting industry to partner in this exercise. Under the proposed plan, initial capacity of envisioned edge data centre at each location can be of around 20 racks (5 KW to 10 KW each). However, edge data centre with variable rack and power density can be explored as per the requirement and availability of space, power and other factors at individual locations.

RailTel has over 9300 points of presence (PoPs) and extensive optical fibre connectivity along the railway tracks and across the premises of Indian Railways, which makes the basic infrastructure readily available for the setting up of such edge data centres. RailTel shall have the responsibility of providing the telecom/internet connectivity to the selected business associate.

In addition, service offerings based on market requirement including health, education, skill development sectors will be jointly devised with selected partners, which may cover one or more basic service platform e.g. rack colocation, managed colocation, infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), categories of cloud computing services, etc..

Edge data centres will enable RailTel to deploy IT infrastructure for ‘caching’ of popular contents to improve experience of RailWire broadband customers as cached contents will then be served locally instead of travelling long stretch of network. Similarly IT infrastructure for ‘peering’ with content players can also be deployed in these edge data centres which would improve cost economics for delivery of contents (eg. youtube, hotstar, etc.). These centres will enable RailTel to improve resiliency of network and help to improve customer experience of “RailWire” broadband services of RailTel.

The current subscriber base of RailTel is around 0.44 million and it will further expected to rise sharply with the coming up of such edge data centre. RailTel already has two UPTIME USA certified data centres – one in National Capital Region (Gurugram) and other in Secunderabad.

Commenting on the development, Puneet Chawla, CMD, RailTel, said, “With the help of such localised data centres, rural areas can be served with low latency applications related to digital skills, financial inclusions, digital literacy etc.. The edge data centres will provide better experience and aid in adoption of digital services by the population of these areas and thus contributing to digital economy. The move will be another important steps towards the path of digital transformation. It will also provide an opportunity to local professionally skilled manpower to participate in this transformation.”