The Indian Railways has announced the installation of free public WiFi at 5,500 stations across India. The initiative was successfully accomplished by the Ministry of Railways in collaboration with public sector company RailTel.
The telecom infra company through this initiative has added free WiFi at many railway stations across the country. According to a press statement, RailWire is one of the largest WiFi hotspot networks in the world, with Mahua Milan station on East Central Railway becoming the latest station to get free public WiFi hotspots.
In October 2019, railway minister Piyush Goyal announced to setup 6.5K WiFi hotspots as part of the RailWire initiative.
The WiFi initiative for Indian railways was started in January 2016 from the Mumbai Central station. The Indian Railways has successfully completed the project in a span of 46 months. RailTel has collaborated with Google, Tata Trust, Power Grid Corporations of India Limited (PGCIL) for various phases of the project. It has also secured funding from the Department of Telecom Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) for 200 stations.
In October 2019, Railwire witnessed a total of 1.5 Cr users logged onto ‘RailWire’ WiFi network across all stations, consuming around 10242 terabytes (TB) of data.
While the RailWire WiFi network is free to use, users need to sign in and out of other public hotspots when moving around. This limits how effective WiFi hotspots can be, especially as users are signed out regularly. Last month, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI) and Virtual Network Operators Association of India (VOAI) urged the telecom department to provide seamless and interoperable internet and broadband services through public WiFI hotspot networks, which would require username-based logins and not an OTP-based login system for each attempt.
In another report by DigiAnalysis, the number of public WiFi hotspots in the country will see 6x rise to touch 2.1 Mn in 2021 from 306K in 2019. State-run telecom companies Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) contributed around 88% of total public WiFi hotspot numbers in the country, followed by RailTel and Reliance Jio. In addition to this, the National Digital Communications Policy 2018, the Indian government had planned to enable deployment of five Mn public WiFi hotspots by 2020 and ten Mn by 2022.