Back when Google announced that it would offer free Wi-Fi across railway stations in India, it said that it would roll out the service at 100 stations before the end of 2016. With just over a week to go, Google has announced that the free Wi-Fi service is now live in 100 train stations, with Ooty's Udhagamandalam being the latest addition.
Google revealed that its free Wi-Fi service — offered in collaboration with RailTel — has over 5 million monthly users, with 15,000 daily new additions. Commenting on the occasion, Google India's head of connectivity Gulzar Azad talked about the service's impact in the country:
We're really excited about reaching this milestone and it is an incredible feeling to look back and see how far we've come since we announced that we were partnering with Indian Railways and RailTel to provide Wi-Fi at 400 railway stations throughout the country. But what has really inspired us are the stories of how people are using this high-speed access to the full and open Internet. They're using Railwire Wi-Fi to be more productive with their time and to get things done more efficiently.
Google also shared stories from consumers availing free Wi-Fi and how it has made a difference in their lives. From Bhagwan Sahay, a user from Jaipur:
I visit [Jaipur station] every 3 to 4 days to get fast access to the Internet. I stop there for a few minutes, download apps, update them and get things my daughter wants. She is in 10th grade and uses my smartphone in the evenings to fulfill her educational needs. She also teaches my wife, her mother, to read and write using my smartphone.
Then there's the story of Bholu, a migrant worker from Bihar:
Traveling usually means I won't have a good connection. I got so excited when I saw free Wi-Fi here at the station. I just called my wife, and the voice and picture clarity were so good. I haven't seen her face this clear in so long, whenever I talk the image is blurred because the network isn't great. She also got so excited to see my call, she was very surprised to see me. I feel so good after speaking to her. I can't stop smiling.
With cellular connectivity still out of reach for a majority of the population,Google's Wi-Fi initiative is certainly helping million of people interact with their friends and family, catch up on news, learn new skills, and even look for job opportunities. For its part, Google has said that it is committed to bringing the service to 400 railway stations across the country.