One gigabit per second. That’s the speed at which you could browse the Web at Mumbai Central railway station for the first hour, and then depending on the number of users and time spent, the speed could vary between 50 Kbps and 1 Gbps. On Friday, Mumbai Central became the first of the country’s 100 railway stations to be equipped with a high-speed Wi-Fi service, a collaboration between RailTel, the Indian Railways’ telecom arm, and the US-headquartered software firm Google.
The ambitious project was announced last September during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. Google CEO Sundar Pichai, during his visit to India in December, had given a January deadline for the facility at the first station and, extending support to the Digital India initiative, had said that 100 railway stations will be covered by the end of 2016. The service was inaugurated by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. In a statement, Railtel Chairman and Managing Director RK Bahuguna said the company’s intent was to fulfil Indian Railways’ vision of providing passengers access to high speed internet. “Affordable smartphones have made it possible for the common man to experience the power of Internet. With our partnership with Google, we are confident of rolling out a robust, scalable service at railway stations in the near future.”
Speaking at the event, Google South East Asia and India VP & Managing Director Rajan Anandan said: “By end of this year over 10 million people will be able to enjoy this experience at 100 stations spread across the country.”
Under the project, Google will work with Indian Railways and RailTel to eventually roll out the service at 400 railway stations, a Google statement said. “This network will extend to cover both long distance and local train stations at Mumbai Central. The next four stations on the list are Allahabad, Patna, Jaipur, and Ranchi,” Google India Head of Access Project Gulzar Azad said.