Written by Shruti Dhapola
| New Delhi |

Updated: February 18, 2020 2:54:49 pm

Google Station, the free WiFi service at the railway stations in India is winding up this yr. File picture of Caesar Sengupta, VP- Payments and Next Billion Users Google at an Google for India occasion speaking in regards to the Google Station service. (Image supply: Shruti Dhapola/Indian Express)

Google’s ‘Station’ wifi programme, which gives free Internet at practically 400 plus railway stations in India, will wind up in 2020. Globally too, Google will wrap up the programme, which was out there in different international locations like Nigeria, Thailand, Philippines, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil and South Africa.

The programme was first announced in September 2015, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Google’s campus in Mountain View, California. The first station to go reside below this was Mumbai Central in January 2016 and Google had partnered with the PSU Railtel for the service. This was additionally a part of Google’s formidable ‘Next Billion Users’ (NBU) programme, which goals to develop companies for customers who will not be but on-line.

So why is Google ending the ‘Station’ free WiFi service?

Caesar Sengupta, VP-Payments and Next Billion Users Google, wrote in a blog post explaining that they’d be shutting down the service by 2020 for the reason that market has modified drastically.  While the weblog submit doesn’t point out it, Google’s contract for the Station WiFi program with RailTel was additionally until 2020, and is ending. 

Google, Google RailTel, Google Station, Google Station WiFi, Google Station WiFi shutting down, Google free WiFi shutting down, Google station Users had to sign up through an OTP on their cell phone, to use the Google Station WiFi on their telephone.

According to the blog post, one main motive is  the provision of cheaper cell information throughout the board. With low-cost cell information enabling extra customers to come on-line within the Indian market, ‘the relevance’ of Station WiFi has additionally diminished within the final two years.

“It’s clear that since we started five years ago, getting online has become much simpler and cheaper. Mobile data plans have become more affordable and mobile connectivity is improving globally. India, specifically now has among the cheapest mobile data per GB in the world, with mobile data prices having reduced by 95% in the last 5 years, as per TRAI in 2019,” Sengupta wrote.

In 2018, Google had announced it will carry the Station Hotspots to Pune as effectively. It had partnered with Larsen & Toubro to carry 150 Google Station hotspots to Pune for the Pune Smart City Development Corporation Limited’s Smart City challenge. Google knowledgeable us that L&T will execute their contract with Pune Municipal Corporation, and they’ll help in a easy transition to make sure that the WiFi facility continues for customers, although the Google Station branding will disappear.

For Google, the NBU program is about getting increasingly customers on-line, particularly those that face entry points for varied causes, be it excessive prices of knowledge costs or lack of units.

Does this imply free WiFi at all railway stations will finish?

While the ‘Station’ service from Google will likely be winding up, this was a partnership with Railtel, which can proceed to present the free WiFi below its RailWire program.

RailTel, which is a public sector enterprise, will proceed to present free WiFi at over 5,600 railway stations throughout the nation. It already gives free WiFi in 5,190 plus stations. The 400 plus stations the place Google ‘Station’ was current, will likely be serviced by RaiTel, going ahead.

Google had the service reside in over 400 plus stations in India. (Image supply: AP)

The pan-India optic fiber community on the railway monitor is owned solely by RailTel, which laid out over 45,000 km this community throughout the nation. This is what Google was utilising for the Wi-Fi and had arrange the factors of entry at platforms.

“In this partnership, Google provided the RAN and technology support and RailTel provided the physical infrastructure and internet bandwidth (ISP). But going forward, apart from these 415 stations, we have also provided free WiFi in 5190+ B, C, D stations as well,” RailTel mentioned in an announcement.

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How did the Google ‘Station’ service carry out in India?

In June 2016, only a few months after the service launched, Google claimed it had 1.5 million users across 19 stations. Then in 2018, Google had shared numbers showing heavy duty usage for the service. It was reported that just about 75 lakh customers consumed greater than 7,100 terabytes (TB) of knowledge in April 2018. This is when the service was reside at some 370 railway stations.

The information additionally confirmed that just about 10,000 customers in Pune, Allahabad, Vijayawada, and Visakhapatnam consumed over 2 TB of knowledge on common thanks to the free WiFi service. There have been additionally anecdotes about how individuals have been shopping for platform tickets to use free Google Station WiFi to obtain motion pictures, watch YouTube and even full their every day work.

Why did Google arrange WiFi at railway stations?

One motive why railway stations have been chosen by Google was due to the dependable energy and fiber networks in addition to the sheer variety of individuals, who go by these each day in India.

In 2016, Google’s Gulzar Azad, Country Head – Connectivity in India had explained to indianexpress.com, “Railway stations are the one place in India where you can get reliable power, fiber thanks to RailTel and most importantly almost all of the demographic of India passes through these stations.” In the highest 100 stations alone, there are 10 million individuals passing by every day, which was a sizeable variety of customers that Google would have the option to cater to.

So was there a lower in utilization in 2019?

While site visitors remained by and enormous secure for the free WiFi service, in Google’s view the context has modified drastically provided that cell information costs in India are actually the bottom on the earth, and customers are consuming increasingly of their cell information itself.

The downside of cheaper information entry seems to have been resolved for probably the most half in India, which is one more reason why this system is winding down. The weblog submit additionally mentions that there are “varying technical requirements and infrastructure among our partners across countries”, which has additionally made it troublesome for Station to scale and be sustainable.

With public WiFi, Google had totally different companions in numerous international locations, every of which had their very own protocols and sustaining one commonplace was additionally a change. It additionally required lots of customised hand-holding by Google, relying on the area, which added to the challenges for the corporate.

When Google had launched the service it had said it noticed a possible of 10 million customers and wished to provide broadband quality experience when using its Wi-Fi. The firm had mentioned it wished to keep pace, effectivity throughout a board of units on this free WiFi. There was no information cap restrict on the utilization, although a person might solely entry for it an hour.

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