Telecom major Bharti Airtel unveiled a new brand identity for its data centre business, ‘Nxtra by Airtel’—in which it will invest ₹5,000 crore by 2025. Airtel, which currently has 10 large data centres and 120 Edge data centres now, will be adding seven new hyper-scale centres.

The largest of these is coming up at Pune (150MW), followed by Mumbai (100MW), Hyderabad, Bangalore and Noida (60MW each), Chennai (40MW) and Kolkata (25 MW). The new data centres will raise their capacity from the current 120MW to well over 400MW. Considering that data centres are power guzzlers, it has aimed to ensure that by the time these centres are up and running, 50% of their power needs would be met from green energy. Currently, it is at 34%.

The interesting bit is that the Nxtra data centres in Mumbai and Chennai will be co-located with the submarine cables landing stations there. The Chennai data centre at Siruseri will be up and running by October 2021, while the Mumbai one—at Pawne in Navi Mumbai—will be operational in the first quarter of 2023. The biggest one in Pune’s Hinjewadi is expected to be operational in Q1 of 2024. Connecting to the submarine cables will provide much quicker access to data.

Director and CEO of Airtel Business Ajay Chitkara says, “Airtel has built the largest data centre network in India, and we are doubling down on this business to scale up our network that will be at the core of 5G and Digital India. Our experience of operating secure data centres, deep brand trust in the enterprise segment and the ability to deliver end-to-end digital transformation solutions positions us well to serve the emerging requirements of India’s connected economy.”

With India looking to move towards 5G, and enterprises transitioning to the cloud, there is expected to be greater demand for data centre services. Chitkara points out that as India is adding onto the data centre muscle, much of the Asia-Pacific (APAC) workload will shift to India. He also elucidates that no new data centres are coming up in the region. That apart, India is emerging as the go-to point for connecting point neighbouring nations. The Kolkata centre at New Town will be up and running in Q1 of 2024 and is expected to meet the needs of not just East India but also SAARC nations.

An affiliate of U.S. private equity group Carlyle last year bought a 25% stake in Nxtra. Airtel still owns 75%.

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