Airtel Business, the enterprise arm of Bharti Airtel, is embarking on a strategic move to extend its data center business, Nxtra, to the African market, according to a report by Light Reading. Vani Venkatesh, CEO of Airtel Global Business, revealed plans to leverage the company's existing presence in Africa, where they already operate 40 edge data centers primarily for internal purposes. Additionally, Airtel has made substantial investments in two submarine cables, namely 2Africa and Equiano, which will enhance connectivity to the continent. With the imminent arrival of these cables, Airtel Business is gearing up to establish five hyperscale data centers in Africa, signifying their strong commitment to expand operations across the region. Currently, Bharti Airtel operates in 14 African countries.
Nxtra, a joint venture between Airtel and Carlyle, has been exclusively operational in India. However, the recent acquisition of a 24% stake in Nxtra by Carlyle Group for $325 million in 2022 paved the way for further expansion. Nxtra currently boasts an impressive portfolio of 12 large data centers and 120 edge data centers in India.
The African data center industry has been witnessing remarkable growth, fueled by the increasing adoption of broadband and a growing subscriber base. Major global technology companies like Google, Amazon, Oracle, and Microsoft have already capitalised on this trend by establishing data centers on the continent.
Despite the positive outlook, Airtel Business acknowledges certain macroeconomic challenges such as a recessionary environment and supply chain disruptions caused by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Consequently, customers are becoming more cautious in their spending, although investments in network infrastructure remain substantial, albeit more measured. Meeting the growing expectations of customers, particularly in terms of near 100% uptime, poses additional challenges for the industry.
In response, Airtel Business is rapidly scaling up its operations to cater to the increasing demands of its customers. The company has started offering cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions and recognises 5G as the next significant opportunity. Over the next two to three years, Airtel Business plans to further expand its product offerings, including Airtel IQ and Airtel Advantage.