Free Wi-Fi : Following Google’s footsteps, it is social media giant Facebook that plans to collaborate with Indian Railways to provide Wi-Fi across railway stations. “The company will start talks with Facebook for expanding its Wi-Fi coverage not only to railway stations but also to villages in the vicinity as well”, RK Bahuguna, chairman of Indian Railways’ communications arm RailTel said.
Free Wi-Fi on railway stations: Social media giant Facebook to take it up
“Facebook India has approached us for the Wi-Fi initiative. We will engage with the company for the expansion of our internet access programme across railways stations to cover villages in the vicinity,” Bahuguna told ET.
An optic fibre- based network across some 4,000 railway stations in the country is promptly available with RailTel. The company is currently working through Railwire-branded WiFi hotspots in alliance with Google and intends to link at least 100 railway stations with data network by the year end.
RailTel and Facebook Partnership
RailTel intends to take this (Facebook) partnership to another level, unlike what the already existing Google-backed plan has. It aims to take the Internet to smaller rail stops, making it accessible to neighboring villages via additional access points. Under the Google-RailTel Internet programme, nearly 2 million people access free Wi-Fi every month across 21 railway stations.
“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 said.
RailTel happens to be an Internet service provider and holds a category-A licence for it. According to Bahuguna, providing Wi-Fi service is not viable for RailTel by itself, but with provision from the Universal Service Obligation (USO) fund, it can extend the programme to as many as 40,000 villages surrounding 4,000 Internet-ready railway stations across the country.
The passive infrastructure that includes optical fibre, local-area network (LAN) and power supply for the WiFi system within station premises in addition to internet backhaul of 1Gbps at each station can be efficiently be provided by RailTel.
A pilot across 125 rural locations was recently concluded by Mark Zuckerberg after procuring bandwidth from state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL), and is also currently in talks with various Internet service firms for Express Wi-Fi development in the country.