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Google expands free Wi-Fi service to 3 more railway stations

Posted: 09 May 2016     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Google  RailTel  high-speed Internet  public Wi-Fi project  railway stations 

Three more railway stations in select Indian cities are now hooked up to Google's free Wi-Fi. Last week, the Indian Railways launched the free Wi-Fi service at Vijayawada, Kacheguda in Hyderabad and Raipur stations, bringing the total to 10 areas where high-speed Internet is available to an estimated 1.5 million passengers and visitors, according to Press Times of India.

Last month, the Wi-Fi service was launched in six stations, including Pune, Bhubaneswar, Bhopal, Ranchi, Ernakulum Jn in Kochi and Vishakhapatnam.

Google India head of access project Gulzar Azad told the news agency: "We are scaling up our efforts to roll out the network quickly to cover some of smaller stations where connectivity is much more limited."

Before Bhubaneswar, the Wi-Fi service was launched in Mumbai Central.

Google's partnership with India

The Wi-Fi project was announced in September 2015 following Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the Internet giant's Mountain View headquarters.

The project—considered as the largest public Wi-Fi project in the world—sees Google teaming up with RailTel, the telecom arm of the Indian Railways, to equip 400 railway stations across the country with high speed Wi-Fi networks via RailTel's extensive fibre network.

RailTel has laid out over 45,000km of optic fibre networks on railway tracks in India, according to the report. Under the partnership, Google will provide Wireless Area Networks and set up the points of access at platforms, while RailTel will be the ISP.

The initial goal was to cover 100 of the busiest stations by mid-2016, and then eventually expand the service to the rest of the railway stations across India, a RailTel official told the Economic Times.

A Seshagiri Rao, director of RailTel's network planning and marketing said: "We have got fibre drop at all the railway stations along with electronics. Being a pan-India operator, RailTel will offer ready availability of passive infrastructure at all the railway stations."

Are there takers?

The availability of high-speed Wi-Fi will allow passengers, waiting for their trains at the stations, to stream high-definition videos.

However, the service isn't entirely for free.

Rao said the Wi-Fi will be free only for the first 30 minutes over a 24-hour period. Beyond that, customers will have to start paying for the service.

RailTel recently discontinued selling Wi-Fi scratch cards at its stations because "there was no significant sale initially." The company said it is still exploring alternative revenue methods, such as online payment, to find a "sustainable business model."

Rao said: "The focus is to provide seamless internet connection. Once we have seamless and uniform service, a revenue model can evolve from there."

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