Airtel taps fast-growing CDN market ahead of 5G launch

Airtel CDN Qwilt
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Bharti Airtel is tapping India’s growing content delivery service market by launching its own CDN service in partnership with Qwilt ahead of the launch of commercial 5G services, that will drive video consumption dramatically in the country.

“As we get ready to launch 5G services, we anticipate a significant increase in data consumption across major cities. Airtel Cloud’s Edge CDN, based on Qwilt’s technology, will substantially increase our ability to reliably deliver high-quality live and VoD streaming throughout India,” Ajay Chitkara, Director and CEO of Airtel Business, said in a statement.

Airtel said that it already has relationships with over 16 content providers across Indian states and is readying to work with others looking to serve in this region. The company is also looking to work with edtech and e-commerce companies.

Own CDN to differentiate

The Sunil Mittal-led telco said that its own CDN would allow it to differentiate its services in the market. Airtel customers, the telco claimed, will get a better streaming or web content experience compared to telcos without their CDN.

A CDN is a group of geographically distributed servers that speed up the delivery of content like video and images by bringing it closer to where users are. They allow users to watch a movie, download software, play multiplayer live games, check bank balances, post on social media or make purchases faster.

“Airtel is a tremendously exciting addition to our global ecosystem of service providers, and we are delighted to power a unique content delivery service offering in India. Our edge architecture provides a new economic model for streaming delivery, in which Airtel Cloud’s Edge CDN plays a central role in the end-to-end value chain,” Alon Maor, CEO of Qwilt, said.

The partnership will allow Airtel to work with customers based outside of India who want to deliver their content using the telco’s network. Similarly, Airtel’s Indian customers will be able to deliver and serve their customers outside the country.

Benefits of Airtel and Qwilt partnership

Qwilt’s Open Edge Cloud enables Airtel to establish a massively distributed layer of content caching resources that deliver streaming media and applications from the closest possible location to subscribers.

Each low-cost edge server can be utilized by other virtual network function (VNF)-based services making it cost-effective enough to distribute throughout the service provider’s access network, as per an official statement.

Airtel said that its large-scale data centres and 120 edge data centres would allow it to offer better CDN services. “With data centre connectivity and mobility as a service, it was natural for us to offer CDN as a service. With the proliferation of gaming and video, the demand for CDN is growing significantly. People need low latency, which is why we decided to bring CDN, leveraging our cloud and data centres,” Ganesh Lakshminarayanan, CEO of enterprise business at Bharti Airtel, separately told the Economic Times.

He said that the CDN market is roughly about $886 million in India and growing.

In India, growing demand for data and bandwidth-intensive use cases such as AR/VR, gaming and video streaming will further drive the requirement for CDN services. Airtel said these use cases are at the core of its CDN strategy.

Bharti Airtel recently said that the telco had finalized its 5G strategy to launch high-speed services in 5,000 towns in a short-term, pan-India rollout by March 2024. The telco’s initial 5G services will be available within a month.

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