Google announced it is gradually winding down its free public Wi-Fi Station programme currently available at over 400 railway stations in India and will work with the Indian Railways and Railtel Corporation to help them with existing sites so they can remain useful resources for people. Google launched its Station initiative in India in 2015 to bring fast, free public Wi-Fi to over 400 of the busiest railway stations in the country by mid-2020.
“We crossed that number by June 2018 and implemented Station in thousands of other locations around the country in partnership with telecommunications companies, ISPs and local authorities,” Caesar Sengupta, Vice President, Payments and Next Billion Users, Google, said in a statement. “Over time, partners in other countries asked for Station too and we responded accordingly. We’re grateful for these partnerships, especially with the Indian Railways and the Government of India, that helped us serve millions of users over the last few years,” he added.
According to Google, the decision to shut Station has been taken keeping the affordable mobile data plans and mobile connectivity in mind that is improving globally including in India. “India, specifically now has among the cheapest mobile data per GB in the world, with mobile data prices having reduced by 95 per cent in the last 5 years, as per TRAI in 2019,” said Sengupta. The Indian users consume close to 10GB of data, each month, on average, according to reports.
“Our commitment to supporting the next billion users remains stronger than ever, from continuing our efforts to make the internet work for more people and building more relevant and helpful apps and services,” Sengupta noted. Global networking giant Cisco last year teamed up with Google to roll out free, high-speed public Wi-Fi access globally, starting with India. The first pilot under the partnership was rolled out at 35 locations in Bengaluru.
Sengupta said that in addition to the changed context, the challenge of varying technical requirements and infrastructure among our partners across countries has also made it difficult for Station to scale and be sustainable, especially for our partners. “And when we evaluate where we can truly make an impact in the future, we see a greater need and bigger opportunities in building products and features tailored to work better for the next billion-user markets,” he said.