Lightstorm looks to disrupt Indian operators for growth

Lightstorm looks to disrupt Indian operators for growth

Cloud infrastructure and fibre provider Lightstorm is on a mission to expand connectivity in South and Southeast Asia with its neutral network, as part of aspirations for growth for the India-based firm.

Speaking to Developing Telecoms, Lightstorm chief operating officer Rajiv Nayyar highlighted how data consumption in Asia is growing rapidly in tandem with demand, but the infrastructure is failing to keep up due to high capital requirements and geographical challenges.

“We are working on this vision to build a high availability fibre-based carrier-neutral platform across South and Southeast Asian markets. These countries are characterised by a massive surge in demand for internet and enterprise applications but they are restricted by the quality of infrastructure available today.

“We are trying to resolve these issues by building a fibre platform focused on resolving the interconnect gaps that are prevalent, typically in the data centre, or cloud and internet infrastructure, connecting several of these markets in the Southeast Asia and South Asia region,” said Nayyar.

The GSMA stated in its 2021 Mobile Economy Asia Pacific report, that at the end of 2020 there were 1.6 billion people subscribed to mobile services which equates to 60% of the region’s population.   

Connection figures are saturating in the Asia Pacific region, but there will be nearly 200 million more new subscribers by 2025, the bulk of that figure stemming from South Asian markets, with India accounting for more than half.

Nayyar explained that Lightstorm is trying to “disrupt” how the world’s largest “hyper scaler” companies that operate in streaming and ecommerce for example, rely on incumbent carriers to conduct business with their high bandwidth and low-latency demands.

Lightstorm is developing a neutral network platform, meaning it does not favour certain companies or operators. It connects data centres in India where the cloud is hosted and does not block any ecosystem, a move that is “unprecedented” claimed Nayyar.

Future growth plans

The first part of Lightstorm’s plan is to expand its network in its native India. So far it has rolled out 12,000km (up from 10,000km last year) of fibre across five major cities in India with the ambition to eventually stretch to 19,000km over the next two financial quarters, with a focus on connecting the east of India.

India will be a blueprint for Lightstorm in “solving” connectivity demands in Asia. Next will be expansion into Indonesia which the company has already begun the groundwork on with an acquisition of an unconfirmed firm with a telecoms licence in the country.

“By the late third quarter or early fourth quarter of this year, we will be will be rolling out the same services we're doing in India, in Indonesia,” said Banarjee.

“In Indonesia, there is a slightly different market construct, it does not have huge distances (like India), but all its data centres come back to the greater Jakarta area. So, that requires about 900km of fibre band, which we are constructing now”.

Banarjee stated Lightstorm is exploring a similar entry to surrounding markets Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand.

Finally, the company is constructing a chain of cable landing systems in India to better serve subsea cable operators such as Google and Facebook, who rely heavily on incumbent operators to connect their cables and the rest of the world to India. 

Banarjee noted landing stations are only situated in Mumbai and Chennai, which creates risks he claimed if landing stations are suddenly taken offline, services will be severely disrupted in the country.

“That's a pain point which the market is seeing today, if you’re a submarine cable operator looking for a landing station in India, you are going to be held hostage once you land in the country because you land enclosed with one network of one licenced operator's licence.

“Companies will be depending on that licence operator to take the traffic out for them. Because there’s little competition, operators have that choke point advantage, meaning pricing can be anything,” said Banarjee.

Looking ahead Banarjee believes the company has found such a huge gap in the market, that Lightstom could potentially become a unicorn status company. 

"In the long term hope to by playing this game to create a unicorn billion-dollar valuation company. Over next, maybe three to five years, that's something which which we aim to go towards", said Banarjee. 

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