Google’s free WiFi for over 400 Indian Railways stations has to be one of the biggest projects that will enable the ‘Digital India’ that Modi government has promised. And, what makes this even better is the fact Google claims the WiFi coverage and capacity to be better than that in London and San Francisco! In an interview to India Today, Gulzar Azad, the Country Head Connectivity at Google India has said, “If you compare this (quality of internet) with Wi-Fi in London and San Francisco, you will find that the Wi-Fi is better in both coverage and capacity.” According to Azad, the internet is “dynamically configured” in a way that the user is able to run apps such as WhatsApp and search pages even when a cap for high-speed is consumed after 30 minutes.
What is this project about? RailTel Corporation of India, a mini-ratna PSU under the Ministry of Railways, has been tasked with providing fast WiFi, called RailWire, for passengers at A1 & A category railway stations across the country. For this, RailTel has tied up Google, the latter being a technology partner. RailTel and Google are setting up fast Wi-Fi network which in its initial phase will cover 400 stations.
Elaborating on the same, RailTel told Financial Express Online that as many as 200 railway stations will boast of the facility of fast WiFi by the end of 2017. “Under this partnership, we had a target of completing 100 stations by the end of December 2016. Surpassing the target, we completed 110 stations by the end of 2016. We now have taken up a target of completing 200 stations by the end of 2017,” a RailTel spokesperson told FE Online. RailTel and Google are targeting completing the project for 400 stations by 2018-end.
According to RailTel, the WiFi that is being provided is “state-of-the-art high speed network”. While RaiTel is providing the power and fiber network infrastructure for this mammoth project, Google is bringing in its expertise on the radio access network front and to enable user experience for WiFi enabled devices, mobile devices and laptops, the official said. “RailTel is upgrading its backbone infrastructure to backhaul high speed connectivity of approximately 1Gbps per station. RailTel claims that the internet speed is good for browsing and downloading and that as many as 6 million people use the WiFi network every month. On an average Mumbai suburban stations top the list in terms of number of users.
How does one use WiFi on the railway station and what is the speed of the internet? The capacity of the each station is 1 Gig. There is a speed cap after the first half an hour of usage to curb misuse of the service being provided, says RailTel. The speed of WiFi for each user is said to depend on various factors like the kind of mobile phone being used to connect or the time of the day. Once logged in the user can use the WiFi for 24 hours.
Additionally, RailTel has also taken up a project of providing RailWire WiFi at 200 rural stations as a pilot project. “This project is going to be a pioneer in bridging the digital divide between urban and rural India as these 200 stations will be quintessentially stations which cater to rural areas where the internet service is either unavailable or not upto the mark,” the official added.