The project covered 100 of the busiest railway stations across India within the first year of its launch, thus enabling 15,000 people to experience the internet for the first time every day. Each station has a capacity of 1GB and the internet connection slows down after 30 minutes to avoid data abuse.
In a move towards enhancing Digital India initiative, Google reached its mark of providing free WiFi to 400 stations across India in collaboration with RailTel, the telecom arm of Indian railways. Google said in a public statement that the project has managed to provide free internet to eight million people on a monthly average, for the first time since its inception in 2016.
The project started with Mumbai Central station in 2016 and finished its 400th mark at Dibrugarh railway station in Assam. In December 2015, Indian Railways had signed a MoU with Google to launch the service, which offers 30 minutes of free internet access. The average data consumption per user per session has been recorded around 350MB. An IANS report said that “Over 35 pc of users on the network are first-time Wi-Fi users. Interestingly, over 50 pc of users accessing the internet multiple times a day highlight that they work to pursue their occupation from the train stations.”
The internet giant said in the statement that the project has succeeded in its mission of bringing connectivity to millions of unconnected Indians, leveraging on the nationwide optic fibre network backbone created by RailTel. This is a big achievement for Google as earlier too Facebook had tried to materialise a similar initiative called free Express Internet, but it did not work out.
The project covered 100 of the busiest railway stations across India within the first year of its launch, thus enabling 15,000 people to experience the internet for the first time every day. The majority of the users fall in the age group of 19-34 years. K Suri, Google India Director Partnership Next Billion Users, said in a statement that, “With over 8 million monthly unique users connecting to the network, this is a lighthouse project for India and every growing economy that is looking to bring the benefit of connectivity to everyone in their country.”
K Manohar Raja, executive director (Enterprise Business) at RailTel said that the endeavour has been to bridge the experience divide by providing one of the fastest public WiFi networks in the world. Talking about the security system enabled in the project RailTel officials further added that the Google Station network is end-to-end encrypted and it will be very tough for hackers and malicious software to gain access to the user’s information.
The partnership between Google and RailTel is for five years. Each station has a capacity of 1GB and the internet connection slows down after 30 minutes to avoid data abuse. The Google Station project is now available in two other developing countries – Mexico and Indonesia apart from India.