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In today’s dynamic global economy, robust internet infrastructure is not just a facilitator but a cornerstone of economic development and innovation. This is especially true for emerging markets in India and South Asia, where digital transformation is rapidly reshaping industries and driving demand for reliable, high-speed connectivity.

One of the primary challenges in expanding internet infrastructure in emerging markets such as India and South Asia is the presence of infrastructure limitations and connectivity issues. The lack of adequate physical infrastructure, including fiber optic networks and 5G capabilities, hinders efforts to provide widespread and reliable internet access.

One of the primary challenges in expanding internet infrastructure in emerging markets such as India and South Asia is the presence of infrastructure limitations and connectivity issues. The lack of adequate physical infrastructure, including fiber optic networks and 5G capabilities, hinders efforts to provide widespread and reliable internet access

Moreover, the geographical landscape of these regions, characterised by remote and rural areas, presents additional challenges in establishing connectivity across all areas. To address these limitations, strategies must focus on: – Increasing access to the Internet through infrastructure development – Deploying advanced technologies like 5G networks, AI, and IOT – Promoting online spending to stimulate demand and investment in Internet infrastructure. Efforts to bridge the digital divide and improve connectivity in these markets require a comprehensive approach that addresses both urban and rural connectivity challenges

Understanding the Landscape

Emerging markets in South Asia, including India, are predominantly mobile-first regions. With a significant portion of the population relying on mobile devices for connectivity, the demand for robust digital infrastructure is paramount. However, the challenge lies in extending this infrastructure beyond the urban clusters to remote and rural areas, where the potential for socio-economic upliftment through digital access is immense.

Public-Private Partnerships

Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) leverage the financial resources and expertise of both the public and private sectors, enabling larger-scale and more efficient investment in broadband networks, data centers, and connectivity projects. These collaborations encourage innovation by combining the innovative capabilities of private companies with the regulatory and developmental oversight of governments, leading to the introduction of cutting-edge technologies and solutions.
PPPs promote sustainability by ensuring that infrastructure projects are designed and implemented with long-term viability in mind, thereby improving service reliability and reducing environmental impact. They can enhance inclusivity by extending internet access to underserved communities, bridging the digital divide, and enabling socio-economic development through enhanced connectivity and digital literacy.

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One of the Public-Private Partnerships in India is the BharatNet Project, which was launched by the Indian government, and aims to connect over 600,000 gram panchayats (village councils) with high-speed broadband, which as of now stands at 254,000 connected villages. This ambitious initiative relies on PPPs to achieve its goals. By involving private companies in the deployment and maintenance of the network, BharatNet ensures the project benefits from technological expertise and efficient resource management. This model can be replicated in other South Asian countries to accelerate internet penetration in rural areas.

Investment in Fiber Optic Networks

High-speed internet access is often dependent on robust fiber optic networks. Investing in fiber optic infrastructure is essential for supporting the growing demand for data and enabling advanced services like AI, 5G, and IoT. The National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN) project, now part of BharatNet, focuses on deploying fiber optic cables to connect rural and remote areas. This investment not only enhances internet speeds but also ensures the network can handle future technological advancements. Expanding fiber optic networks across South Asia can significantly improve the region’s internet capabilities.

Empowering Networks & Local Solutions

Empowering networks and local solutions are pivotal for expanding internet infrastructure, especially in underserved areas where traditional ISPs may not prioritise investment due to economic constraints. Projects like the Gram Marg Project in India exemplify how local communities can take charge of their internet connectivity needs. By involving residents in planning, deployment, and maintenance, these networks tailor solutions to local conditions, ensuring sustainability and fostering local ownership.

Interconnection platforms complement these efforts by providing essential support through its interconnection platforms. By enabling direct connection among local ISPs, content delivery networks, cloud service providers, OTTs, and IPTVs, it ultimately reduces latency, saves costs, and enhances overall customer experience. This empowerment allows community networks to deliver reliable internet services to their residents efficiently.

Furthermore, internet exchange contributes to the scalability of local networks by offering technical expertise, capacity-building programs, and advocacy for regulatory reforms that support fair competition and sustainable growth. This collaboration ensures that community-driven initiatives can flourish, bridging the digital divide and driving socio-economic development.

In essence, the synergy between local networks and internet exchange; is a holistic approach to internet expansion. By leveraging local solutions and regional expertise, these efforts empower communities to build resilient and inclusive digital ecosystems that benefit all stakeholders.

Enhancing Network Reliability & Performance

Enhancing network reliability and performance is critical for the expansion of internet infrastructure. Reliable networks ensure consistent service availability, while high-performance networks provide the necessary speed and capacity to support modern digital applications.

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A few interconnection platforms took the initiative to contribute and act as a catalyst in this process and introduced the concept of availability zones in Bangalore and Hyderabad. This expansion significantly boosts redundancy and reliability, ensuring that the customer experiences minimal downtime and enhanced performance. This advancement significantly enhances network speed, reliability, and overall performance, allowing businesses to operate more efficiently and effectively.

Guest contributor Sudhir Kunder is the Chief Business Officer of DE-CIX India, one of the largest internet exchanges in South Asia with internet exchange points in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, and Kolkata. Any opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of the author.


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