National Internet Exchange India (NIXI) is planning a major expansion this year, including setting up 16 additional internet exchanges to improve Internet access .

"We are looking at locations such as Jaipur, Kanpur, Bhubaneswar. The aim here is to bring the location of these exchanges as close as possible to the cutstomer, thereby improving the quality of the service. Our aim is to make the internet as inclusive as possible," Anil Kumar Jain, CEO, NIXI told BusinessLine. NIXI currently has nine exchanges in major Internet hubs of the country.

An internet exchange is a physical infrastructure through which Internet service providers such as the telecos, other broadband players, and content delivery networks such as Google, Amazon, Facebook exchange internet traffic within their network. NIXI was the first domestic entrant into this service, launching in 2003 to provide India with its own infrastructure to carry out this key task. Without domestic internet exchanges , ISPs will need to take their customers' requests offshore to foreign servers belonging to the content providers, thus adding cost and latency to basic activities such as surfing the web.

Jain also plans to onboard the majority of the Indian content ecosystem onto NIXI, including those hosted on the National Informatics Centre, and the State Data Centres onto their exchange.

"We are looking to host the majority of the internet ecosystem on our internet exchange by the end of this financial year," Jain said. Major content providers such as Google and Facebook have been recently onboarded in NIXI's internet exchange.

A first mover advantage

While NIXI was the first mover in this space, it is ranked third in India in terms of domestic traffic hosted on its exchange. Hosting daily traffic of 124-128 Gbit/s, NIXI is far outpaced by its competitors, such a DE-CIX, that host 400 Gbit/s in India.

Jain however, has big plans to reinvigorate the enterprise by the end of the financial year. "Government content is a large chunk of internet content trafficked in India, carrying out key operations such as filing tax returns etc, thus it will be an immense step to get this fully onboarded onto NIXI by the end of this financial year" Jain explained.

While industry insiders tout these announcements to be a step in the right direction, they remain sceptical about whether NIXI will deliver on these promises. "NIXI has remained stagnant at 8-9 exchanges for the past decade or so, being a government entity, that works at a slow pace. I will find it surprising if they are able to deliver on their promises in a year," an industry executive told BusinessLine on the conditions of anonymity. Insiders also contend that major content providers pride themselves upon the consistency and smoothness of their interface and service, in which case they seek their internet exchanges to have world-class infrastructure. "This will need to be taken into consideration by NIXI as well," said an expert.

Speaking on the domain (.in) registry business, Jain said that NIXI has a 28 million user base. "The goals for NIXI now are to make the internet as inclusive as possible by encouraging production and translation of content in local languages as well. We want to encourage the use of our other 22 local language domain names and making internet available to a massive chunk of the population in India that does not speak English," Jain said.