‘India needs to scale up investments to improve Internet access in rural areas’ – Ivo Ivanov, the CEO of DE-CIX International

Ivo Ivanov, the CEO of DE-CIX International, one of the largest Internet Exchanges in the world, talks about the infrastructure India needs to ensure that everyone in the country has access to the Internet.

Internet has become the backbone of everyday life in India. Be it access to ration or getting vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus, online has become the new normal. Yet, the country still has a long way to go before the technology reaches to all. Ivo Ivanov, CEO of DE-CIX International, one of the largest Internet Exchanges in the world, talks about the infrastructure India needs to ensure everyone has access to the Internet.


Does India have the required infrastructure necessary for handling the internet traffic that the present situation asks for? What kind of investment do you feel is necessary to make India’s internet seamless?

India’s Internet infrastructure has significantly improved, and the pandemic has been a prime factor for this transformation. Nevertheless, it is quite clear that the geographical density of Internet infrastructure must be increased. While there are already hundreds of millions of Indians using the Internet, not even 30% of rural India has access. This needs to change. More investment is required in the whole array of digital infrastructure and connectivity options — there is a need for more fibre and mobile connectivity, connecting the rural regions, as well as developing edge connectivity.

The adoption of technologies like 5G and Wifi-6 is very important for economic development as it enables businesses to fully exploit the advantages of the digital economy. Added to this, there is a need for greater investment in the construction of data centres so that digital content, applications, and cloud services can be housed as close to the users as possible. Besides these, the establishment of connectivity to LEO satellites can bring the Internet to places that fibre and mobile networks can’t get to.

India can expand its role in the global market by scaling up investments in physical infrastructure and investing in the collaboration of local and global entrepreneurs, like digital information technology services, including big data, Internet of Things, and analytics. All of the digital infrastructures also need to be interconnected via high-performance Internet Exchanges to share data at the local level and allow data to flow, reducing the distance data needs to travel and therefore improving the performance of the applications and content.

At the start of the pandemic, we saw companies scrambling to increase the data plan. Is there a supply-demand mismatch in India at this moment?

The rising demand in Internet traffic we saw last year due to the pandemic, while remarkable in its scale, could be absorbed easily and smoothly and without concerns at the DE-CIX IXs.

We saw peak traffic records broken at our IXs in India during 2020. At DE-CIX India, from February 2020 to February 2021, we saw significant growth in different segments of data traffic, reflecting the needs of people during a lockdown —keeping in touch with others, entertainment, and access the cloud and virtual offices. OTT and VOD traffic also grew very strongly, followed by gaming and ISP. Then CDN and Social and Online Media traffic grew by almost the same scale, whereas hosting traffic, bringing up the rear, nonetheless showed a strong rise.

There is a gap in customer expectations, especially from work-from-home perspective. Many organizations struggle to keep up with the demand of their staff. As such, the sudden increase in network usage was not expected and the existing company infrastructure was not built accordingly. But, the Internet infrastructure itself was and is capable of absorbing the increase in data traffic experienced in India throughout the pandemic.


As you mentioned that the cyclone has affected the exchanges. With extreme weather conditions becoming common is India, is it possible of shielding the network from vagaries of nature?

Too often, when there isn’t enough infrastructure in place, be it railroads, bridges, or digital infrastructure, a region becomes vulnerable to single points of failure which can have an impact also further afield.

Therefore, there is great value in having distributed infrastructure — meaning that if multiple networks cover a region, then they can interconnect with each other locally to create more resilient paths for data to travel from point A to point B. It is important to have several ways to route around an area that is affected, for example, by storm damage, to make sure that other areas are not also impacted.

This is why we have our interconnection infrastructure in India distributed across 15 data centres providing both greater geographical density and locational redundancy. Having a range of infrastructure providers — network operators, Internet service providers, data centre operators, etc. — interconnected via an IX increases the resilience of the Internet.

By connecting to DE-CIX, these infrastructure providers and their customers benefit from the largest carrier and data centre neutral ecosystem in India. As a result, India is becoming increasingly capable of withstanding challenging conditions, but certainly, there is still work to be done. The pandemic has made organizations very well aware of the importance of state-of-the-art infrastructure and the need to be well equipped for extreme weather conditions.

Internet is the backbone of everything in India. But we still get to hear of dark areas where the network fails. As a service provider, what’s your analysis of this?

As a provider of interconnection services, we do not operate backbone or data centre, but partner with operators of all kinds of digital infrastructure. We are, in fact, always looking for and developing new techniques to expand the digital ecosystem both at global and local levels. I think one of the most exciting developments for India currently is the potential of LEO (Low-Earth Orbit) satellite Internet provision, which can bring remote communities online to join the global Internet.

These communities are struggling to run online businesses and gain proper access to the Internet as a result of their current connectivity solutions. These often involve copper cable networks and at most geostationary satellite connectivity, resulting in Internet speeds down to less than one megabit per second and latency (response time) as high as 400 milliseconds end-to-end.

Through its “Space-IX” Program, DE-CIX is ready to support the infrastructure needs of the whole range of space-network operators, in particular LEO satellite operators, with terrestrial interconnection, providing them with an interconnection solution that enables access to terrestrial content, cloud, and application networks. This can have a substantial impact on reducing the dark areas on the Indian map and of course, further adds to the diversity and resilience of the Indian Internet as a whole.

Tell us about your operations in India. Any investment plans or business figures you want to share

Regarding our operations, DE-CIX runs four Indian IXs in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, and Delhi, interconnecting 375-plus networks in 15 PoPs, and plays home to the largest carrier and data centre-neutral ecosystem in India. The largest of these, DE-CIX Mumbai, gained the ranking late last year of the second-largest IX, based on connected networks, in the Asia Pacific region.

DE-CIX India also offers a single access port for multi-services, meaning that a single port can be used by any connected network for both interconnection services, peering, and the DirectCloud Service. DE-CIX has recently received a patent for ‘Blackholing Advanced’ in Germany as a DDoS prevention mechanism, and this will soon be available in India as well.

Overall, what we see developing at the moment is that society and businesses in India and around the globe are entering a new era of digitalization in which digital applications and services will be needed everywhere, for everyone. To ensure best performance of digital applications and services, latency needs to be minimized; meaning that digital applications need to get closer to the users because latency is the new currency.

To achieve this, the digital infrastructure that houses and transports data needs to be at the edge of the network — as close as possible to the point where the user connects to the network or where the data is being generated. DE-CIX also plans to continue expanding to new locations, together with partners, to increase the geographical density of interconnection services, and therefore bring content and applications closer to the user.

We also make it possible to order interconnection infrastructure as a managed service, a highly scalable turn-key solution that enables data centre operators and other stakeholders in India to create their own interconnection ecosystem.

Beyond this, we are constantly innovating the service portfolio, bringing tailor-made interconnection services to an ever-wider range of customers. While Internet Exchanges have traditionally been seen as locations where carriers, ISPs, content networks, and content delivery networks interconnect to exchange data, we are now seeing an increasing number of participants joining from other industry segments, like healthcare, finance, retail, logistics, entertainment (such as gaming) and of course, automotive.

This is a development that DE-CIX aims to support in order to ensure a smooth transition to a digital society and economy. Having established a Cloud Exchange in India in 2020, we have now taken our service offering to the enterprise segment further – enabling an enterprise to build a closed and secure private ecosystem, a Closed User Group (CUG), within existing DE-CIX ecosystems. In this way, the Indian enterprises can further minimize the geographical distance to the other networks – and thus optimize the latency – as well as improving security and resilience.

The Digital Triangle for Edge Interconnection

Digital is reshaping how business is done. We are at the cusp of a completely new age in global economics, with enterprises, regardless of size and heritage, redefining their activities and their sectors based on digitalization. Organizations are leveraging their digital strength to reshape their own business models and how business is done within and across entire sectors, including automotive/mobility, healthcare, finance, and media.

As they become digital, organizations are needing a new interconnection service regime customized for their needs. New and transformative technologies, like IoT, artificial intelligence, and 5G, are accelerating the pace of change in markets around the globe. These disruptive elements will serve as a “digital interconnection triangle” of future innovation, in turn creating still further interconnection needs at the edge.

The heart, hand, and brain of future innovation

Interconnection at the edge requires a new way of handling data streams, and a new way of interconnecting players within an ecosystem. The key factors that influence edge interconnection (if you will, the heart, the hand, and the brain of future innovation) are:

5G (the heart):

5G enables the management of a lot of different frequencies, and also enables the transmission of multiple data streams. Designed primarily for maintaining data from a huge number of sensors, 5G represents the foundation for the future evolution of the Internet of Things.

IoT (the hand):

IoT represents function in the digital interconnection triangle. In a 5G-enabled environment, it will be possible to connect an enormous number of devices within a physically limited space. This will open the way to digitalizing more and more currently purely mechanical processes. But managing the enormous number of sensors and data streams that will result in the Internet of Things in the future will not be possible without the support of artificial intelligence.

AI (the brain):

AI is essential in this mix in order to create the logic management and maintenance of data streams for innovative use cases and the respective ecosystem involved in the specific environment. This is the only way that the interconnection of millions of sensors in the Internet of Things can be managed efficiently. The solution is intelligently managed software-defined edge interconnection.

Each of these factors is dependent on the other two, and it is only when they are interconnected that they can drive digital evolution. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Unlocking new use cases with edge interconnection

Use cases that reflect this digital interconnection triangle will be many and various, but current scenarios include connected cars and autonomous vehicles on the one hand, and Agriculture 4.0 on the other. In both of these use cases, there is the need for widescale deployment of 5G masts, including edge computing capabilities (edge data centers), and the associated fiber connectivity to local data centers and regional cloud solutions. For these use cases, IoT devices and sensors are needed both within the landscape (in the road and in the soil to measure physical conditions) and on the mobile objects (throughout cars – the car itself can be considered as a mobile edge data center – and on autonomous farm machinery or watering/fertilization systems, for example).

From this point, the masses of data that are generated by the given use case need to be intelligently sorted into, among other things: data that needs to be processed locally with extremely low latency to enable rapid response times; data that can be sent to the cloud for processing if the response times are less critical; data that needs to be accessed by specific actors (but not others) in the value chain: and data that will be stored long-term versus data that will be discarded. The list goes on…

The complexity of this demands intelligent management of the data streams

Edge interconnection – the next generation interconnection

DE-CIX is working on developing a solution based on consideration of this triangle. Software-defined Internet Exchanges may well be one of the solutions not only to serve these needs efficiently and fast, but also to enable fast and cost-efficient expansion of the interconnection industry with less dependency on hardware. SD will also both bring more dynamism and encourage greater productivity.

IoT is the edge, AI is in the edge, and 5G serves the edge: The software-defined exchange provides the solution to the forthcoming digitalization challenge – namely, the ability to operate and manage the data streams of the future.

– by Ivo A. Ivanov, CEO, DE-CIX International 

With high traffic comes great responsibility; How an internet exchange operator successfully manages continuously growing data traffic

At the latest since the spread of the global Covid-19 pandemic, people have become more and more dependent on digital services and have come to rely on them, in both their private and professional lives. Digitalisation is picking up speed faster than expected. On the front lines of accelerated digitalisation, internet exchanges, as part of the critical internet infrastructure, face the challenge of a fast, secure and smooth interconnection of thousands of networks.

Coronavirus pandemic as a driver of digitalisation

The past year was quite extraordinary for everyone. Never before, as companies, the entire economy and even private individuals, have we been exposed to a truly global pandemic. The fact that the pandemic is a driver of digitalisation became apparent early on. In 2020, India enjoyed a strong rise in Internet usage, which hit the peaks when recorded at internet exchanges. Data traffic indicated increases in all areas, especially in the home working environment through collaboration tools such as Teams, VPN use or video conferencing as well as entertainment options such as online and cloud gaming and streaming.

Now, the virus, with its consequences of a changed culture of work and leisure, is not the only component causing data traffic to skyrocket. Growth in streaming services and cloud computing, mobile internet, and real time communication has been ongoing and accelerating for years now. Innovations and advancing automation of technologies such as 5G, Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence along with day to day events also play a decisive role, as do seasonal influences. Seasonally, in most years the internet experiences a slow down during the summer months  but not in the extraordinary year of 2020. In fact, at DE-CIX Mumbai, total customer bandwidth grew by 75 per cent as a result of both new customers and existing customers ordering upgrades. This brought the total connected customer bandwidth to close to 3000 Gigabits, or three Terabits, customers of the exchange grew by 53 per cent to 280 and there was an increase of 67 per cent in the number of 100GE ports sold, reflecting customer needs for greater bandwidths. This is evidence to the fact that during the Covid-19 pandemic, growth in the use of digital applications and Internet services continued unabated.

Increased demand: Interconnection available at any time

Data traffic is growing and demand for bandwidth is increasing. Managing this ongoing transformation in a way that guarantees a seamless user experience is crucial for both private or business purposes. Internet exchanges are well equipped to meet these challenges; On the one hand, they can immediately upgrade existing customers’ connections, for example, by upgrading a 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GE) port to a 100GE port. Also, new networks that want to benefit from the advantages of peering, that is a direct connection to and between different networks via an internet exchange can be quickly connected. As a result of the direct connection, data packets reach their destination directly and as quickly as possible, as well as securely, cost effectively and without packet loss.

Cloud connectivity is particularly in demand to enable dedicated access by enterprises to cloud service providers. Ever increasing data volumes and increasingly critical business applications mean that dedicated connections are becoming more and more important. To constantly meet all of these needs, sufficient capacities must be planned. In this way, internet exchanges can ensure fully comprehensive interconnection worldwide at all times. Strategic and proactive plans that ensure sufficient capacities are always available, making certain that these needs are permanently met and that there is full coverage at all times. As soon as the utilisation of the connected bandwidth by networks at internet exchanges reaches 63 per cent, it is common practice that it gets upgraded. This process allows it to ensure full coverage at all times.

High data traffic means growing responsibility

With high traffic comes great responsibility. Due to accelerated digitalisation and the increased demand for interconnection, peering, cloud connectivity and the like, an internet exchange must be continuously prepared for the needs arising from increases in data traffic, not only by connecting new customers every day but also by always providing sufficient capacity for further growth. It is also necessary to look beyond the horizon; Digital technology will continue to evolve rapidly, and only by constantly monitoring developments and planning extensively in advance is it possible to live up to responsibilities encompassing partners and customers, to the end users, and also to the environment.

By Sudhir Kunder, Country Director, DE-CIX India

All you need to know about VNO Licensing

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Virtual Network Operator (VNO) or Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) is an internet service reseller and provides management services because they do not own telecommunication infrastructure. VNO’s are categorized as virtual networks because they do not possess actual network while offering these network services to their customers. VNO networks often lease bandwidth from various telecom providers at wholesale rates in order to provide solutions to their customers. The VNO business took place in India on 24th July, 2018 by Plintron, Adpay and BSNL.

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Difference between VNO License and ISP License:difference between vno & isp.JPG (628×194)

How to acquire a VNO license?

  • Check Eligibility: One has to register their company under the Companies Act, 1956. Preference is given to Pvt. Ltd. Companies over sole proprietorship/partnership companies.
  • VNO License Category: There are 3 categories of VNO licenses. VNO license is cheapest for Class C.
    •  A ISP (PAN India)
    •  ISP(Telecom Circle/Metro Area)
    • C ISP(Secondary Switching Area)

Budget and Cost Analysis: To augment internet services, the government kept the prices extremely low for category C in comparison to class A and B

  • Application Filling: A company is required to fill an application form and pay a non-refundable amount of Rs.15000 with all the mandatory documents and 2 copies of the application form and dispatch it at the New Delhi Headquarter of DOT.
  • Document Verification/Review: Document verification is conducted by DOT which may take around 60 days. If approved, the company with receive ‘Letter of Intent’. And if the documents does not make it to the point, the chances are the application will get rejected.
  • Letter of Intent: DOT issues a Letter of Intent after document verification. The company is required to submit a non- refundable one-time entry fee, the signed license agreement and other requisite documents mentioned in the letter within the time mentioned in it.
  • Confirmation: After all the process, the company will be issued a VNO license for ISP under the Unified License for a period of 10 years. The information related to confirmation of license issue will be communicated directly to you via DOT.

As the ubiquitous networks are advancing each day, the field of telecommunication provider has also changed. However, this new category of service provider (VNOs) is efficient enough of creating a customer’s choice and market place where many networks can enjoy under a single infrastructure. The VNO model has created a revolution in the telecom industry.

You can apply for VNO License here