THE NEW & YOUTHFUL DIGITAL INDIA
India is undergoing a digital transformation of sorts. The country’s digital transformation market is expected to reach $710 Billion by 2024, according to P&S Intelligence. The increasing adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) and various government initiatives (both at State and Cabinet levels, such as Smart Cities and Digital India) has created high-growth opportunities that are further accelerating the digitalization of service sectors, namely communication, healthcare, technology, energy, banking, etc…
The underpinning of any digital transformation effort (macro or micro) is data. The capacity of India as a country to generate and consume data is second to no other country in the world. With the second largest population after China, more than half of the country’s 1.35 billion people are Internet users. The country boasts a very young and an extremely tech-savvy population, demonstrated by having the world’s highest number of mobile phones and the world’s second-largest telecommunications market.
The India data center market is booming. According to a recent JLL report, India’s data center market is expected to grow from 375MW in H1 2020 to 1,078MW by 2025 with a CAGR of 21 percent. The new data sovereignty laws are a huge catalyst for in-country data center development in India. In 2020, the government passed data sovereignty laws stating that certain kinds of data must be stored in physical data centers within India. If the pending Personal Data Protection Bil passes, it could lead to further expediting the development of data center projects.
When you have data centers, you have to have robust, scalable and reliable connectivity. Although, much can be said (and done) about India’s terrestrial fiber network, in this article, we will be focusing on connectivity and the subsea cables landing in India.
THE EVOLVING SUBSEA PARADIGM
With the subsea resurgence underway, there are some global paradigm shifts taking place. Two of the most noticeable ones are: a) the growing importance of the role played by hyperscalers in subsea and b) the convergence between the subsea and data center sectors of the digital infrastructure industry.
According to a recent Telegeography report, $8 Billion is expected to be spent on new subsea projects worldwide. Currently there are 464 subsea cables and 1,245 cable landing stations worldwide. The major hyperscalers, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon, currently own around 8.5 percent of subsea cables globally (Source: BroadbandNow).
SUBSEA HUBS IN INDIA
Traditionally Mumbai and Chennai have been the major subsea hubs in India on the west coast and east coast of the country respectively. The subsea cables and the cable landing station have been operated by local in-country licensed telecommunications providers. The permits and licenses required to land a subsea cable requires close coordination with, and approvals from, the government.
However, many of the parameters are changing. These include new potential landing spots coming up and being considered in the state of Gujrat (in the northwest), West Bengal (in the northeast) and Andhra Pradesh (on the west coast). Open systems finally saw the light of day when the Government recently granted the first IDL license to an open access system in India.
Currently, there are 18 subsea cables that are connected to India (but might go beyond), and these cables land in 15 cable landing stations across five cities in India. Out of 18 subsea cables, there are 7 subsea cables starting/ending in India. The five cities where the 15 cable landing stations are located are: Mumbai, Cochin, Trivandrum, Tuticorin and Chennai. The landing stations also extend connectivity to landing stations throughout the country as well as landing stations in other countries.
According to data by Submarinecablemap.com, its close, but Chennai is the country’s second busiest landing station, with seven connections. Third on the list is Cochin with two connections. Both Trivandrum and Tuticorin have one connection each. The main convergence for internet subsea cables on the Indian peninsula is the landing station in Mumbai, which is the busiest of the lot with 11 connections in total.
Gulf Bridge International Cable System (GBICS)/Middle East North Africa (MENA) Cable System with a capacity of 5.81 terabits (5,270 km long), the FALCON cable with 2.56 terabit capacity (10,300 km long), the Europe India Gateway with a capacity of 3.84 terabits (15,000 km long), the IMEWE cable with a 3.84 terabit capacity (12,091 km long), the SEACOM/Tata TGN-Eurasia cable with a 1.5 terabit capacity (15,000 kilometres long), the Flag Europe-Asia or FEA (28,000 km long), SeaMeWe-3 (39,000 kilometres long), MIST (8,100 km long), the Asia-Africa-Europe cable (25,000 km long), Bay Of Bengal Gateway (8,100 km long) and SeaMeWe-4 (20,000 km long)