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Explained: What is Google’s Wi-Fi at 100 railway station project and how will it work

Google will deploy WiFi at 100 railway stations in partnership with Railtel. Mumbai Central will be the first station to get free Wi-Fi by January 2016

Written by Shruti Dhapola | New Delhi |
Updated: December 17, 2015 9:35:47 am
Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Sundar Pichai, Google wifi, railway wifi, free wifi, Google, free wifi railway stations, Free Wifi railway how will it work, Free Wifi railway, Mumbai central free Wifi Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced company’s push to bring internet access to more users. The company also announced that Mumbai Central will get free Wi-Fi by January 2016 (Source: Express Photo by Renuka Puri)

Google CEO Sundar Pichai had first announced about the the company’s free WiFi at railway stations in India when PM Modi had visited the company campus in Mountain View, California in September. Under the project, Google plans to provide free and high-speed Wi-Fi access to railway commuters at over 400 stations in India. Google has partnered with Railtel Corporation to make this project a reality.

How’s the project going to scale out? Which stations will get covered?

According to Google’s announcement today, the first station to get free Wi-Fi under this scheme will be Mumbai Central, where testing has already been carried out. Google’s free Wi-Fi at Mumbai Central goes live by January, 2016. Google plans to make free Wi-Fi live at over 100 stations in India by the end of 2016. The free Wi-Fi scheme will target stations across each railway zone in India.

At the end of 2016, Google will evaluate the project to see how it will expand the free Wi-Fi scheme further. Google says that preparations are already on in multiple stations to make the project a reality.

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So how exactly will Google’s free Wi-Fi work? Why has it partnered with RailTel?

Railtel is the PSU which owns a Pan-India optic fiber network exclusively on railway track. It has laid out over 45,000 kms of optic fibre networks across the country, which Google will utilise for its Wi-Fi.

In this case, Railtel will be the ISP, while Google will provide the Wireless Area Networks (WAN) and will set-up the points of access at platforms. It should be noted that Google’s free WiFi will only work at the platforms and is not meant for the trains.

Will Google have some guidelines, standards for this free public WiFi?

Google says the idea with its free WiFi is to ensure wide coverage and high capacity. According to Google VP for Access and Emerging Markets Marian Croak, the company sees a potential of 10 million users accessing its WiFi each day by the end of 2016 from across these railway stations. And Google wants to make sure that these 10 million users get broadband quality experience when using its Wi-Fi.

For instance, Google will try and ensure that the WiFi railway users who watch videos on the network get at least HD standard streaming. Google will also aim to maintain speed, efficiency across a board of devices.

Will the service always be free? What’s the revenue model here for Google?

Google says that the service will be free to begin with, although it has not yet specified whether it will eventually charge for this WiFi. It should be noted that free WiFi in other public places like airports is free for a limited time period only. 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.

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