Free WiFi service across Indian Railways stations: In the month of April alone, at least 75 lakh users consumed more than 7,100 TB of data across 370 Indian Railways stations offering free WiFi facility. The figure is equivalent of nearly 23 lakh high definition (HD) movies streamed online or about 5,000 days worth of audio, according to an IE report. Also, over the last year, data consumption also saw a four-fold jump. In March 2017, 60 lakh people across 110 railway stations consumed 1,600 TB of data as compared to April 2018. Interestingly, the usage pattern suggested more users as well as high consumption of data (over 2 TB) in several non-metro cities such as Allahabad, Pune, Vijayawada, and Visakhapatnam. RailTel, which teamed up with Indian Railways in 2016 in order to provide free WiFi service across 400 railway stations along with Google compiled the figures and completed the project around a week ago.
RailTel, a Mini Ratna CPSU under the Railway Ministry and the only consistently profitable as well as dividend-paying Telecom CPSU under the government of India, aims to provide free high-speed WiFi service to railway stations all over India.
Prasanto Roy, vice president of NASSCOM was quoted in the report as saying that internet across the nation is penetrating into the next 300 million users, who consume more video and less text because most of them are non-English speaking and have lower literacy levels. He said that they watch streaming video off WhatsApp-shared links. Also, they watch YouTube videos, listen to audio, do video chats. He also said that earlier some of them were watching videos on mobiles through shared or rented SD cards, however, now they are downloading videos on either free WiFi or cheap usage plans. Therefore, he feels that now their average demand for data is higher than the first 300 million.
According to the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the metros across the nation have witnessed an increase of more than 60 per cent in mobile subscriptions between the years 2011 and 2017, while the rest of the nation saw an increase of around 85 per cent. Rajan S Mathews, Director General, COAI was quoted saying that in India, the hunger for data is driven to a great extent, by video streaming which contributes nearly 70-75 per cent of mobile data traffic. As per COAI, at this rate, the nation will consume 1 million TB (14 exabytes) of data per month in five years compared to last year’s 1.3 exabytes data consumption. As per Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) numbers, an average mobile subscriber consumed nearly 2,000 MB or 2 GB data per month and as per Nokia, with fixed WiFi networks, usage shot up to 8.5 GB per month. In April, a TRAI report estimated that WiFi service will drive around 60 per cent of Internet traffic in the year 2021.