July 18, 2018
State-run Indian Railways is the world’s third largest railway operator, ferrying more than 23 million passengers daily on its over 12,600 train
The railway operator has aimed to provide Wi-Fi spots at 100 stations by 2016-17, 200 stations by 2017-18 and 500 stations by 2018-19
RailTel, has entered into an agreement with Mahataa Information, an unit of Google, to provide Wi-Fi facility at ‘A1’ and ‘A’ category of stations
Public Wi-Fi connectivity is expected to service 40 million new internet users, while contributing US$20 billion to India’s GDP by 2019
The Indian Ministry of Railways has decided to provide free Wi-Fi connectivity at all train stations except halt stations, without involving any expenditure on Railways’ account, according to an official statement on July 18. The announcement comes on the back of Indian Railways setting up Wi-Fi connectivity in as many as 707 train stations across the country, crossing a previously-set target. The world’s third largest railway operator, which ferries more than 23 million passengers daily on its over 12,600 trains, has aimed to provide Wi-Fi at 100 stations by 2016-17, 200 stations by 2017-18 and 500 stations by 2018-19. Following the recent feat, RailTel Corp of India Ltd, the telecom unit of Indian Railways, has entered into an agreement with Mahataa Information India Pvt Ltd (MIIPL), a subsidiary of Google, a USA-based technology company, to provide Wi-Fi facility at ‘A1’ and ‘A’ category of stations.
The cost of providing Wi-Fi at ‘A1’ and ‘A’ category of stations where RailTel has entered into agreement with (MIIPL) will be shared by the entities. RailTel has been advised to follow revenue sharing model for ‘B’ and ‘C’ category stations as well. The Indian Government’s Department of Telecommunications has been approached to provide funds under Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) for Wi-Fi at D and E category stations. The measure comes as part of an initiative undertaken by the Ministry of Railways to modernize rail infrastructure in order to maximise income opportunities. This also bodes well with the ‘Digital India’ programme that seeks to make Government services available to citizens electronically by improved online infrastructure and increasing Internet connectivity. The initiative has been bolstered by India’s growing internet user base which crossed 500 million at June 2018.
Public Wi-Fi connectivity is expected to service 40 million new internet users, while contributing US$20 billion to India’s gross domestic product by 2019 and at least US$10 billion annually from there on, according to a report by Analysys Mason, a global consulting and research firm specialising in telecoms, media and digital services. India is currently the world’s second-largest telecommunications market with a subscriber base of 1.2 billion and has registered strong growth in the past decade and half. This has helped in the steady uptake of internet penetration, especially in smaller towns and rural areas. The growth has opened up investment opportunities in the sector, attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) worth more than US$30 billion over 2000-2017. For instance, in June 2018, Google deployed its 400th WiFi spot at Dibrugarh railway station in the Northeastern state of Assam.