- Neutral host operator already has a vast optical transport network running through India
- Now it plans to add edge data centre resources in 102 locations across the country
- It is seeking local partners for the development
RailTel, which owns and operates an extensive long-haul fibre network that runs along more than 60,000kms of India’s railway lines, has issued a call for local partners to help it develop and build 102 edge data centres located on railway premises, mainly in “Tier-2 and Tier-3 towns.”
The state-owned company has published an Expression of Interest document with the aim of attracting partners that can help with the development and its funding, which RailTel puts at more than INR5 billion (US$68 million): The aim is to meet the costs using the public-private-partnership model.
The plan is for the edge sites, each of which is set to house about 20 server racks (5 KW to 10 KW each), to “accelerate the pace of digital transformation and efficient digital delivery in rural and semi-rural areas” of India. RailTel will be responsible for providing and managing the connectivity to the edge sites.
RailTel believes there will be growing demand for lower-latency connectivity than is currently possible from centralized and international data centres for the delivery of services such as streaming video, cloud, IoT and more, but the edge facilities will also be used to house the technology needed for critical communication services, such as TCAS (traffic collision avoidance system) and 4G/LTE, to the Indian railways as well as colocation and platform/infrastructure-as-a-service offerings.
RailTel currently serves about 440,000 enterprise and service provider customers and expects this edge data centre development to boost its customer numbers significantly.
Puneet Chawla, Chairman and Managing Director at RailTel, noted: “With the help of such localized Data Centres, rural areas can be served with low latency applications related to digital skills, financial inclusions, digital literacy etc. The Edge Date 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.”
The move appears to be a significant one for India, as it would open up the opportunity for cloud-enabled services for many more small and medium-sized businesses and rural communities across India. It should also be of interest to the likes of Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel and could play a role in taking cutting edge communications capabilities such as Open RAN beyond the confines of the large Indian cities.
However, there have been many initiatives in India over the years that have fallen foul of changes in regulation or a lack of participation (or even a lack of essential services such as power supply), and while this initiative doesn’t look like one that would be hampered by such challenges it’ll be interesting to see if the plan to build out such an extensive distributed data centre network actually comes to pass. Let’s hope it does.
- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV
Stay up to date with the latest industry developments: sign up to receive TelecomTV's top news and videos plus exclusive subscriber-only content direct to your inbox – including our daily news briefing and weekly wrap.