Google is to provide high-speed public Wi-Fi in 400 Indian railway stations that carry millions of passengers every day, giving the company an important headway in the country.
The Internet giant is working with the Indian Railways and RailTel, a government-owned provider of telecommunications infrastructure to the railways, to initially cover 100 of the busiest stations in India before the end of 2016. The first stations are expected to come online in the coming months.
“Even with just the first 100 stations online, this project will make Wi-Fi available for the more than 10 million people who pass through every day,” said Google CEO Sundar Pichai. The service will be offered free initially, but the aim is to make the project eventually self-sustainable, so as to provide Wi-Fi to more stations and other places, he added.
India’s railways has the capacity to carry 21 million people daily and it plans to create capacity for 30 million passengers in the next five years, with track length also going up by 20 percent to about 138,000 kilometers.
India currently has about 300 million people already online.
The commercial terms of the deal between Google and Indian Railways, including whether the company will be allowed to serve advertisements to users at the railway stations, were not disclosed. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Pichai expects railway passengers to use the Wi-Fi to “stream a high definition video while they’re waiting, research their destination, or download some videos, a book or a new game for the journey ahead.”
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Google’s headquarters on Sunday as part of his effort to drum up support from Silicon Valley companies for his Digital India project, which aims to connect more Indians through the Internet.
“We want our 1.25 billion citizens to be digitally connected. We already have broadband usage across India go up by 63 percent last year. We need to accelerate this further,” Modi told Silicon Valley executives at a dinner in San Jose on Saturday.