Bharti Airtel to invest $673 million in data centre expansion


Indian telecom giant Airtel today said it will invest Rs 5,000 crore ($673 million) into its data centre business now rebranded as Nxtra. The company aims to triple its data centre capacity by 2025. Airtel expects India to become a hub for data centres for the Asia-Pacific and the country already caters to a large amount of data needs for countries in the sub-continent like Nepal and Bhutan. Airtel said it is at various stages of building these new data centers, with some ready to open in the next 40 days.

Nxtra currently has 10 large and 120 edge data centres in India. Coupled with Airtel’s global network, it provides scalable integrated solutions to hyperscalers, large Indian enterprises, SMEs and governments. Airtel said it had identified seven locations to build the new data centres which include Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, Noida, and Bengaluru.

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

The telecom giant said it sees a huge increase in data needs in the future, owing to new 5G applications and more. Many telecommunications companies are ready to deploy their 5G infrastructure in the near future. Along with data sovereignty laws, many enterprises are now transitioning to cloud and local data storage options. According to Airtel, the data center space in India could become a $4 billion industry by 2025.

Global real estate services company JLL estimates that the Indian data center industry will double its capacity from 450 mw to 1074 mw by 2023, according to a May 2021 study.  

Nxtra’s investment in the next three to four years is meant to scale up its hyperscale and edge data centres. The plan includes new data centre parks in key metro cities. The investment will see Airtel’s installed data center capacity to cross 400 mw. The company also said it will focus on generating green energy for these data centers, and is open to partnering with green energy companies for the same.

“Airtel has built the largest data centre network in India and we are now doubling down on this business to scale up our network that will be at the core of 5G and Digital India,” said Ajay Chitkara, Director and CEO, Airtel Business.

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