Google last year tied up with RailTel to provide Wi-Fi services across the railway stations in India. The company aims to expand the service to 400 railway stations by 2017 and 100 by the end of this year. With Google s Wi-Fi service gaining traction in India, RailTel is now looking for more partners to benefit users. After Google, Facebook is likely to tie up with RailTel to provide Wi-Fi services across India’s railway stations. According to RK Bahuguna, chairman of Indian Railways’ communications arm RailTel, Facebook has already approached the public sector undertaking. He also revealed that Facebook s Wi-Fi service would not just be restricted to railway stations but to villages in their vicinity as well. Also Read - HP Chromebook 11a review: Great for students, not so for professionalsAlso Read - Happy Father's Day 2021: Google Doodle wishes dads with cute pop-up greeting card
“Through this (Facebook) initiative, we will be able to offer data services up to a 10-km radius from a connected rail stop, which however can further be increased by up to 25 km via additional access points,” Bahuguna told ET. “Facebook India has approached us for the Wi-Fi initiative. We will engage with the company for the expansion of our internet access program across railways stations to cover villages in the vicinity, he added. Also Read - Google might be working on a 'Find My' network clone for Android users
It is worth pointing out here that RailTel, which is also an internet service provider, has set up over 45,000 km of optic fiber network across the railways stations in the country. The fiber network connects about 4,500 cities and towns, and 5,000 railway stations across the country. RailTel is reportedly also in talks with telecom operators for providing a similar service.
BGR India has reached out to Facebook and RailTel for more information on the development.
The latest development comes days after the social networking giant concluded its pilot test of its Express Wi-Fi services across 125 rural locations. To provide the Wi-Fi service, Facebook had bought bandwidth from state-run telecom operator BSNL, and is reportedly in talks with other telecom companies in the country to expand the Express Wi-Fi service.
With Free Basics (Internet.org) banned in India over violating net neutrality, Facebook can now look to build on the Express Wi-Fi service to achieve its mission to provide affordable data to rural and remote areas in the country. We are currently in the early stages of testing Express Wi-Fi, which would empower a local Indian entrepreneur to purchase an inexpensive set of hardware and start a business to offer Internet access to their town or region. This program allows customers to purchase fast, reliable and affordable data packages to access the Internet via local hotspots, Facebook India s Country Manager for Connectivity Solutions, Munish Seth had told BGR India earlier this year. ALSO READ: The economics of Facebook Free Basics
That said, free Wi-Fi services are becoming increasingly popular in the country. Already several popular tourist spots in India have become Wi-Fi hotspot zones. As mentioned earlier, Google-RailTel s Wi-Fi service is gaining good traction in the country. According to reports, about 2 million people access Google-RailTel free Wi-Fi service every month at 21 railway stations so far. Addition of Facebook is certainly going to be a big bonus for users.