India has the highest data usage in the world. In that context, T V Ramachandran, President, Broadband India Forum & Chairman of the Telecoms Council of the European Business Group, India highlights the steps India needs to take to avail this opportunity.
Yes, we do believe that the opportunity before India is humongous and not available probably to any other nation in the world. We are the highest data consuming nation in the world per subscriber running at 10GB per month and growing. The expectation is within a couple of years it is going to be about 14 GB per month.
We have not reached rural connectivity penetration anywhere near where we should be. And there is more scope for huge data consumption in the form of video. It is not voice connectivity, which is so important. The rural population wants entertainment, wants education, everything on the video which is easy to understand for them. In the rural areas, video traffic is running even as high as 70 to 80 percent of the traffic. So there is a very large potential for data. We cannot cope with unless there are more data center capacity. Here comes a crunch. While we need extremely high data center capacity soon, we have to do a very fine balancing game. We have to look for eminently desirable local capacities to solve the data. But we also have the problem that to set up so many data servers requires huge investments, takes time. Do we have the time? We have to play a balancing act between what is possible by virtue of setting up local servers, because the data servers have certain special requirements. You have to have power, availability & reliability and cooling capacity. You have to have skills for managing the datacenters. It has been estimated abroad that the cost of downtime on data servers can be as high as maybe 300 thousand dollars an hour. Global average of outages is about 2 and half outages a year. The business can be completely wiped out in that.
So, we have to make very clear planning on these basics to be able to go with data servers in a big way. The challenges are there in India on power in a data center. If we talk of big data centre or even a medium size data center, it may take as much power as what a small town or city requires. So we had to do a balancing between what’s required for the common man, by the rural farmer for data consumption. It’s an art of diplomacy which has to be done in that, and we believe that we have to take both. What the policy makers could do is to incentivize more and more data centre locally, not mandate it. We think mandating may not be such a good idea.
Incentivization for the businesses of data centers have to be made, and then we will surely come out a winner with the skills and expertise that we have. Particularly if I want to move data centers to the tier 2 and tier 3 cities. What do I have? Do I have the skills on security, on cooling, on power handling and maintenance? So that means I have to invest a lot in training in those areas because the idea of moving to Tier 2 is to take advantage of the lower costs, whether in real estate or manpower. Now, I can’t have that if I have to import people from the urban areas, so I must set up huge training capacities.