Google launched the Google Station program a few years ago, providing free internet access via Wi-Fi services to over 400 Indian railway stations. Further, the service was also available at thousands of other public places across the world. However, now Google has decided to take down the service.
Why the step? Well like every decision corresponding to the internet in India recently, this one too can be attributed to Reliance Jio. According to Google, with the cheap data services available in India across the country now, the need for a service like Google stations is not exactly needed.
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Caesar Sengupta, the Vice President of Payments and Next Billion Users mentioned that the program helped millions of users surf the web. Many of these were first-time internet users who did not have to worry about the data they consumed. However, this was in 2015, a whole year before the launch and eventual rise of Reliance Jio. Ever since people on both Jio and other telecom circles have been introduced to much cheaper data. The usage of Google Station has since apparently gone down by a lot.
Google finding it troublesome to keep Railwire going
Additionally, it has also reportedly become hard for Google to find a business model to sustain the program. Google Station has recently expanded to Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand, Nigeria, Philippines, Brazil and Vietnam. Google also launched the service three months ago in South Africa. The company has since its launch, found ways to monetize the service by introducing advertisements.
“The challenge of varying technical requirements and infrastructure among our partners across countries has also made it difficult for Station to scale and be sustainable, especially for our partners. And when we evaluate where we can truly make an impact in the future, we see a greater need and bigger opportunities in making building products and features tailored to work better for the next billion user markets,” said Sengupta.
Gulzar Azad, who spearheads connectivity efforts for Google in India, told TechCrunch that the company was thinking of ways to scale station to more markets. However, when it came to Indian railway stations, Google said it has reached its goal. Google will pull out of the service. Meanwhile, state-owned RailTel will continue to provide internet to the 400 stations Google had already targeted.
Offering Wi-Fi services to over 5,500 railway stations, RailTel will take over the Google Station program. Currently, RailTel operates at about 5,190 stations. Now, the service will take over the 400 stations that were under the Google ‘Station’ program. “We are working with our partners to transition existing sites so they can remain useful resources for the community,” said Sengupta.