No free Wi-Fi: Google to discontinue its free Wi-Fi program for stations

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on February 18, 2020

Google station

Google will discontinue its free Wi-Fi program for Railway stations this year, TechCrunch reported on Monday.

The search giant had launched its program in 2015 to offer free Wi-fi to Railway passengers at the station. It had facilitated free Wi-Fi at over 400 Indian Railway stations apart from Mexico, Thailand, Nigeria, Philippines, Vietnam and Brazil.

Caesar Sengupta, VP of Payments and Next Billion Users at Google said that Google Station was no longer as necessary with an increasing number of internet subscribers due to mobile internet getting cheaper in India, TechCrunch reported.

With the advent of Jio in 2016, the number of mobile internet subscribers has rapidly increased in the country. According to the 2019 Mary Meeker report on Internet trends, India accounted for 12 per cent of internet users globally. The company also named the telecom provider as one of the most innovative internet companies based outside the US.

Private sector players including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio, however, had hiked tariffs by up to 40 per cent back in December 2019 as per previous reports.

“Varying technical requirements” and coordinating with its partners for the required infrastructure was another major challenge that led to Google’s decision to end the program according to the TechCrunch report.

Google had earlier been planning ways to monetize its Wi-Fi program through ads as per the report. Building on the success of the program, Google had earlier announced its plans to expand public Wi-Fi outside stations and into train cities back in 2018 as part of its Next Billion Users initiative, according to previous reports.

The company had launched the pilot of its Google Station Program back in 2015 in Pune under the Smart City project.

The tech giant was working with RailTel to facilitate the broadband internet services at Indian Railway Stations.

RailTel, the government-owned infrastructure provider has already facilitated free Wi-Fi at over 5000 Railway Station across the country under its ‘RailWire’ project. According to the report, it will continue serving the 400 stations that were under Google’s Wi-Fi station project.

Published on February 18, 2020

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