In a recent blog post, Google claimed that it has reached its target of 400 free Wi-fi enabled stations in India. The Dibrugarh railway station in Assam in the northeast is the 400th Google station in India to be powered by public Wi-Fi.
The 400 Wi-Fi enabled stations are the result of a journey that Google, along with the Indian Railways and RailTel, embarked on two-and-a-half years ago. “There are now over 8 Mn people getting online with Google Station every month. On average, people consume 350MB of data per session, roughly the size of a half-hour television episode and over half of the people using Google Station engage in multiple online sessions a day,” the blog reads.
Further, Google Station is now also available at 150 locations in Pune, Maharashtra, and other upcoming Smart Cities.
“India has the second largest population of Internet users in the world, but there are still almost a billion Indians who aren’t online. We realize that not everyone in India lives or works near a train station, so we’re moving beyond train stations and into the rest of the cities,” adds the blog post.
Google and the Indian Railways had partnered for Project Nilgiri in 2015 with the aim of providing free Wi-Fi access at around 400 railway stations across India in Phase 1 of the project. It was reported that Google would use Google Fiber to provide high-speed internet connections to travellers. In Phase 2, Google plans to provide Wi-Fi on board moving trains across India using cutting-edge technology.
The blog reads, “In 2015, our CEO Sundar Pichai and Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a project to provide high-speed public Wi-Fi in 400 train stations across India. The first Wi-Fi enabled railway station, Mumbai Central, went live on January 2016. We later rolled out a global public Wi-Fi program called Google Station based on the model that we developed in India.
This is not Google’s first project to provide free Wi-Fi services in India. Earlier, in 2015, reports surfaced that Google is working in closely with Railtel, a PSU with a pan-India optic fibre network running along railway tracks in rural and urban regions covering 70% of India’s population.
Also, in the same year, Google’s floating balloon-powered Internet project, called Project Loon, which aims to provide Internet in rural and remote areas, was approved by the Indian government. However, the project faced some privacy concerns and is now on hold.
However, the Google team is still optimistic about its presence in India. As stated in the blog post, “Our journey in India has shown us the tremendous potential of public Wi-Fi programs in creating opportunities, and we believe that the benefits of getting people online can and must be replicated beyond borders.”
Apart from India, Google Station has been launched in Indonesia and Mexico and is expected to extend to other countries. Going forward, Google will continue to extend its public Wi-Fi services within Indian cities as well.