RailTel and Google’s free high-speed public Wi-Fi service is now live at Mumbai Central station. Google CEO Sundar Pichai had announced that Mumbai Central will be the first station to get Wi-Fi under the scheme during his India visit in December 2015.
The company had first confirmed the plans when PM Narendra Modi had visited Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California in September 2015.
Google plans to roll out the service to 100 railway stations in India by end of 2016 and expects a potential 10 million users for the free Wi-Fi service.
In order to utilise the service, customers will have to select the RailWire Wi-Fi on the platform, and then open the railwire.co.in page, where a log-in screen will appear. Customers will have to enter their mobile number and they will get a 4 digit OTP via SMS, which they will have to enter on the page to get access.
In India, this is OTP-method is common for gaining free Wi-Fi access in public spots. The only problem with this is that if you don’t get the OTP due to network issues, or because you don’t have a functioning India-number SIM, then you can’t access the network.
In India, airports in Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Bengaluru, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Chennai, Patna, etc offer free Wi-Fi facility, although there is a time limit of 30 minutes in some airports after which the service can only be accessed via payments.
In Delhi, free public Wi-Fi hotspots are also available in Connaught Place and Khan Market, but speed and connectivity problems remain. In Mumbai, Shivaji Park, the metro stations also offer free public WiFi. Bangalore and Ahmedabad also have free public WiFi spots.
So how does Google’s free Wi-Fi service work? Google has partnered with RailTel to make the project a reality. This is because RailTel owns the Pan-India optic fiber network exclusively on railway tracks and has laid out over 45,000 kms of optic fibre networks across the country.
Google will be utilising this network for its Wi-Fi. While RailTel is the ISP, Google will be providing the Wireless Area Networks (WAN). The free Wi-Fi will only work at the platforms and is not meant for the trains.
At the end of 2016, Google will evaluate the project to see how it will expand the free Wi-Fi scheme further. Google says the idea with its free Wi-Fi is to ensure wide coverage and high capacity, and the company want to give all users broadband quality experience with this service. Google has certain quality benchmarks for the kind of speeds it expects the free Wi-Fi to deliver.
On the revenue model, Google hopes that this will be self-sustainable and it will start exploring with different revenue models later on. For now, the focus will be on getting the project up and running.
Google says Allahabad, Patna, Jaipur and Ranchi are next on the list for the free WiFi. The company had earlier indicated that testing was currently on in other railway stations in India as well.