One of the highlights of railway minister Suresh Prabhu’s budget announcements on Thursday was free, fast, unlimited Wi-Fi at over 100 Indian railway stations by the end of the year.
So how is the government actually doing this? By tying up with Google, that’s how.
The partnership was announced in December 2015 when Google CEO Sundar Pichai visited India to unveil a host of India-specific initiatives from the search giant. As a part of this partnership, the American tech giant and the Railways’ telecom wing, Railtel, will jointly work to blanket railway stations with Wi-Fi.
In an interview with the Hindustan Times, Google’s vice-president for access strategy and emerging markets, Marion Croak said: “The free Wi-Fi will work on the back of fiber already deployed by RailTel and will provide station wide access instead of closing it down to a particular point.”
Mumbai Central was the first station to be WiFI-enabled under this program last month. The Hindustan Times tested out the network and was able to use social media, surf the web, and even watch high-definition videos on YouTube and Netflix with no buffering.
Users can use the service for free at full speed for an hour and then with reduced speed to make sure no one abuses the system.
Google clarified that there will be no paywalls for the service — something that is standard for Wi-Fi offered at airports around the country.
The company, though, hasn’t clarified which stations will next get this service after Mumbai Central; it had previously mentioned that it would be targeting the busiest stations from each of the sixteen zones in the country.
Eventually, Google and Railtel plan to bring Wi-Fi to 400 stations across the country.