One of the world’s biggest Wi-Fi projects has gone online at India’s train stations by Manu Balachandran

Google has rolled out one of the world’s largest public Wi-Fi projects in India.

On Jan. 22, the busy Mumbai Central station in India’s financial capital became the country’s first railway stop to provide free high-speed public Wi-Fi to passengers. With 400 more such railway stations expected to roll out similar services, millions of Indians are now expected to have access to free high-speed internet while travelling.

By the end of 2016, Google plans to launch the services at 100 of India’s busiest railway stations.

Google, along with other global IT giants, including Facebook and Microsoft, have been actively tapping into the Indian market as Asia’s third largest economy is expected to have some 426 million users online by June 2016. In 2015, the CEOs of all these companies had even visited India and laid out their aggressive plans to push their services, particularly in rural India to boost their usage—and, in turn, revenues.

“Even with just the first 100 stations online, this project will make Wi-Fi available to millions of Indians—who pass through railway stations every day, making it the largest public Wi-Fi project in India and among the largest in the world by number of potential users,” a Google statement said.

Google has partnered with RailTel, Indian Railways’ telecom wing, which had earlier laid out more than 45,000km of optic fibre network across the country. The company hasn’t disclosed its investment for the project yet.

For now, access to high-speed internet will be restricted to an hour, after which the speed will come down, according to Gulzar Anand, who heads the access programs at Google. The company is yet to define the average speed of the services. Currently, India has one of the slowest internet in the world.

https://atlas.qz.com/charts/V1Wjd5Rdx

Eventually though, Google could charge consumers for the data services, once they exhaust the free usage.

“The Wi-Fi will be entirely free to start, so stream and download to your heart’s content. However, while there will always be some level of free Wi-Fi available, the long-term goal will be to make it self-sustainable, to allow for expansion to more stations and places, with RailTel and other partners, in the future,” a Google spokesperson told the Hindustan Times.

The decision to provide free Wi-Fi was taken last September, when India’s prime minister Narendra Modi visited the IT giant’s headquarters in Mountain View, California.

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