Piyush Goyal-led Indian Railways is leaving no stone unturned for its plans to equip all railway stations in the country with free WiFi services. In a recently held Railway Board meeting it was decided that over 8,000 railway stations in the country will offer free WiFi facility by the end of March 2019. The ambitious plan was extensively discussed in the Railway Board meeting, sources told. An implementation mechanism for the same will be decided in yet another meeting that will be held on March 16, sources said adding that the focus would be on providing internet access to stations in rural areas. The railway stations WiFi project is likely be a key enabler for Modi government’s ‘Digital India’ initiative, especially for rural areas where access to internet can be a game-changer.
“There are over 7,000 railway stations in rural areas and the Railway Ministry wants to set up WiFi hotspots there so that people can come to railway stations to use the internet. The cost of setting up 1-2 WiFi hotspot in rural railway stations is much less compared to say New Delhi, Lucknow or Howrah, but the advantages are manifold as it allows for digital penetration,” sources said.
Meanwhile, RailTel in collaboration with the Department of Telecom (DoT) is already setting up WiFi hotspots on 200 rural railway stations, of which over 140 have already been covered. “Along with DoT, we are also setting up kiosks at these railway stations that will help people understand how to use internet and will allow them to access various government services,” a RailTel official told.
Till now the focus of providing WiFi on railway stations was centered around A1 and A category of stations. Technology giant Google along with RailTel is working to equip 400 major railway stations in the country with high-speed internet facility. It is learnt that as many as 317 stations have already been covered and a stiff deadline of early 2018 is being eyed to meet the 400 railway stations target. Google claims that its WiFi services for India’s railway stations are faster than those in San Francisco and London! The fiber network infrastructure and power for the mammoth project is being provided by RailTel, Google on its part is bringing in its expertise on radio access network. This allows for better user experience on laptops, mobile phones and other WiFi enabled devices.