Soon, watch TV shows, news debates on Indian Railways’ free application
Indian Railways passengers may soon be able to watch entertainment and news and current affairs programmes on the screens of their personal devices when waiting at a railway station or travelling on a train.
The Railway Board has chosen RailTel Corporation of India Ltd, a unit of the national transporter, to implement the project that will enable travellers to stream their favourite content, whether it be Hindi serials or the night’s news debate, through a free app.
Preloaded content including television serials, movies, songs, devotional programmes, and news and educational content will be beamed on mobile phones or tablets initially at 1,600 railway stations that are already equipped with Wi-Fi and will cover the remaining 4700 stations by October this year.
The project will enable the national transporter earn revenue as well in the form of ads displayed on its landing page and in between the entertainment programmes.
RailTel was handed the job after zonal railways, which had been tasked with the project, failed to implement it.
“Zonal railways have not been able to make much progress with regard to implementation of content on demand, perhaps, as it required bandwidth with network connectivity across all stations...,” the Railway Board said in an order dated July 11, a copy of which has been seen by HT .
RailTel, the first choice for the project, had been taken off it in July 2018. “We have just received the directions from Railway Board and have started work on the tender document,” said Puneet Chawla, chairman and managing director of RailTel.
The project to provide content on demand to railway passengers is on the lines of one executed by airports that started their own FM channels a few years ago.Indian Railways officials say the national train network is lagging behind in an era when passengers are increasingly hooked to watching content on their mobile phones .
In January 2017, announcing a non-fare revenue policy, then railway minister Suresh Prabhu stressed the need for providing content on demand. “Although we enjoy the highest captive eyeballs in a railway system internationally, we earn less than 5% of our revenues through non-tariff sources,” he said. “Many of the world railway systems generate 10% to 20% of their revenues from non- tariff sources. Over the next five years, we will strive to reach this world average by monetizing assets.” Railways doesn’t agree that a personal screen for every seat is the way to go. Passengers using their own devices is the future, officials say. “Even in airlines, they have stopped providing TV; everybody uses his own mobile and in that we will provide preloaded material,” the board official added.