Google CEO Sundar Pichai has outlined an ambitious project that sees the search giant offering high-speed public Wi-Fi at 400 train stations across India. The initiative was announced on the eve of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi's visit to Google's headquarters in Mountain View.
Working with Indian Railways, which operates one of the world's largest railway networks, and RailTel, which provides Internet services as RailWire via its extensive fiber network along many of these railway lines, our Access & Energy team plans to bring the first stations online in the coming months. The network will expand quickly to cover 100 of the busiest stations in India before the end of 2016, with the remaining stations following in quick succession.
Even with just the first 100 stations online, this project will make Wi-Fi available for the more than 10 million people who pass through every day. This will rank it as the largest public Wi-Fi project in India, and among the largest in the world, by number of potential users. It will also be fast—many times faster than what most people in India have access to today, allowing travelers to stream a high definition video while they're waiting, research their destination, or download some videos, a book or a new game for the journey ahead.
Best of all, the service will be free to start, with the long-term goal of making it self-sustainable to allow for expansion to more stations and other places, with RailTel and more partners, in the future.
Modi is currently visiting several leading tech companies in the US as he aims to get his Digital India initiative off the ground. Although internet usage in the country has skyrocketed in recent years, a majority — amounting to nearly one billion people — of citizens are not connected. The government is trying to address the issue by providing basic internet access available for free, particularly in rural areas.