Google to connect villages in three Indian states with free Wi-Fi as BharatNet misses deadlines

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New Delhi | Updated: September 20, 2019 5:06 PM

Google has connected 1,600 railway stations to the RailWire Wi-Fi service so far

Google said it has partnered BSNL to deploy the Google Station public Wi-Fi hotspots to the locations other than railway stations and certain government offices in India. Google is now looking to power villages in Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Bihar with its high-speed Wi-Fi connectivity that is available to users for free. Google Station joined hands with RailTel to equip railway stations in India with Wi-Fi service. As of April, this year, Mumbai’s Santacruz railway station became the 1,600th railway station to have been turned into the RailWire Wi-Fi zone.

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Google Station is a flagship programme under Google’s Next Billion Users initiative to bring people online. It started with setting up the first Wi-Fi zone at Mumbai Central railway station in 2016. Over the period of three years, the Google Station has expanded to 1,300 locations across India, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Brazil, serving over 100 million users. It has also become a substantial source of revenue for the partners responsible for the deployment of necessary Internet infrastructure.

While Google Station is being rolled out in India in partnership with the telecom wing of Indian Railways, Indian government’s flagship programme Digital India aims to connect gram panchayats under the BharatNet project with high-speed optical fibres. As many as 2.5 lakh villages have been earmarked to receive the fibre network, as announced by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her budget speech. The government is also leveraging the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) to fast track the project. However, the government has missed several deadlines in the past, reaching only 1.9 lakh village blocks as opposed to the target to 2.5 lakh village blocks.

Speaking at the event, Caesar Sen Gupta, Vice-President, Next Billion Users Initiative said, “With Google’s ongoing commitment to improve access beyond train stations to villages across India, we have partnered with BSNL to bring fast, reliable and secure public WiFi to villages in Gujarat, Bihar and Maharashtra.”

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