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Airtel bets big on India's data centre boom

The company has announced an investment of Rs 5,000 crore

airtel-reuters Representative image | Reuters

Leading telecom player Bharti Airtel is betting big on India's data centre market which is witnessing a veritable boom. The Gurgaon-based company has announced an investment of Rs 5,000 crore in expanding the data centre business through its subsidiary Nxtra.

This is a market where the demand is more than supply,” said Ajay Chitkara, director & CEO. “India needs huge data centres. These are crucial infrastructure (required) to support our digital economy,” he added.

Airtel Nxtra's plans include setting up 7 hyperscale data centre campus, including a 100MW campus in Navi Mumbai spread across three buildings totalling 7 lakh square feet (and scalable), as well as one in Chennai which is all set to open in October. Nxtra already has about 120 Edge data centres across the country that cater to its existing 400 or so clients.

The requirement for data centres has been rising exponentially in India as technology transformed in recent years toward cloud storage, as well as the rise in internet usage in the country. The number of internet users in the country is presently above 56 crore, and expected to reach 90 crore by 2025, according to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).

Airtel's investment of Rs 5,000 crore, to be invested over the next three or four years, assumes significance in view of the spurt in internet usage (and content generation which in turn requires storage) in the country particularly after the pandemic hit. A recent JLL study says India will need more than Rs 27,000 crore worth of investment and 60 lakh square feet of space in the data centre sector to meet the burgeoning requirement. India is already fast on its way to becoming one of the major data centre players in the world – its consumption of over 100 MW of power last year surpassed even data centre consumption in markets like the US and Europe, says TechWire Asia. The impending 5G rollout, Internet-of-Things (IoT), increased digital consumption, the government's push for data localisation all portend for a major ramp up in data centre capacity in the country in the coming months and years.

“We see a huge growth happening in the domestic Indian ecosystem. Large domestic companies like banks and startups are consuming large data center space,” added Chitkara. Airtel says its data centre business revenue went up by 300 per cent in the last three years


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