India teams up with Google to provide free Wi-Fi at 500 stations


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SAN JOSE (CALIFORNIA): With growing internet usage in India, the search engine giant Google will collaborate with Indian Railways to provide Wi-Fi services at 500 stations by next year.

India-born Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the search engine giant will provide high speed Internet services at 100 railway stations in India initially and then expand it by 400 more by next year. The announcement came during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California on September 27. Mr Modi, who took a tour of the Google campus saw the latest products and forward-looking researches and was given a presentation of Google Earth in which the ghats of his Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi were shown.

Mr Pichai explained navigational, safety and other uses of Street View as well as Google Earth to Mr Modi. He was also briefed about four critical projects and their value for the government’s ‘Digital India’ campaign.

According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), India has close to 100 million broadband users as of March 2015. The number of users in urban India is around 74 million while in rural areas it is a little over 25 million. Some of the reasons for low penetration of broadband in rural India include poor infrastructure and power supply conditions as well as low levels of computer penetration and literacy.

Given the potential for growth in internet usage in India, it is no surprise that Google has decided to provide this service to 500 stations.

According to Google’s official blog, “even with just the first 100 stations online, the project will make Wi-Fi available for the more than 10 million people who pass through every day”.

This project is estimated to be the largest Wi-Fi project in India. At the venue Mr Modi appreciated and encouraged Google to develop Apps which could benefit the common man. He stressed the need to “encourage Hackathon culture” in India so that the youth were inspired to find solutions to the country’s problems.

Envisaging a qualitative change in the life of people in the years to come, Mr Modi said, “this is just the beginning” and added that social media has become a strong and new power in a democracy.

The Wi-Fi projects at the railway stations are expected to mfacilitate services such as high definition video streaming being possible on these connections along with high speed internet.

Stressing on the demand for information, Mr Pichai said: “There was a hunger in India to have more information and get connected. The hunger for technology was reflected when Google launched Chrome browser some time back and India was the first country to adopt it in a major way”.

With access to latest smartphones and other latest devices among the youth in India, who are the bulk users of internet, the potential for high speed Wi-Fi-enabled connections in public places like stations is all set to become a reality.