Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants the Railways to extend free WiFi internet facility on at least a dozen long-distance trains even though the Railway Ministry has suggested that this facility be discontinued because of negative returns.
At a meeting earlier this month, the ministry informed Modi that the cost of providing WiFi internet on proposed 50 rakes or trains was estimated at nearly Rs 100 crore because each satellite communication dish costs Rs 1.5 crore with an annual licence fee of Rs 50 lakh each dish.
Moreover, it said there were not many users of this facility which was launched as a pilot project on New Delhi-Howrah Rajdhani Express in April 2013. Only about one-fourth of the passengers were opting for this service.
Its alternative suggestion was that free wireless internet connectivity be provided at rail platforms as this would not require satcoms and hence would be cheaper. Another option was to charge the passengers for the internet usage during the journey.
However, sources said Modi shot down the ministry’s objection to expanding the service and insisted that the facility be extended to other trains and that the service be kept free of charge.
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Given the resource crunch of the Indian Railways, officials said the ministry was working on the number of trains which could be covered to provide the facility for announcement in the NDA’s maiden Rail Budget, to be presented Tuesday.
Priority would be given to Rajdhani and Shatabdi express trains, they said.
Initially, 4 Mbps download bandwidth and 512 Kbps upload bandwidth is earmarked for internet facility in moving train. For accessing the internet, passenger gets a WiFi password by sending his PNR number through the registered mobile number.