Remember each time you step in one of India’s numerous Railway stations you’re greeted with an open Wi-Fi hotspot, that’s free to connect and have superb download speed – the Google Station. Well, next time you enter an Indian railway station, you would probably miss it. After completing its deployment of free Wi-Fi service in 400 railway stations across India and in a few Indian Smart Cities, Google is winding down (shutting down) the Google Station program.
“We’ve made the decision to gradually wind down the Station program globally, through 2020. We are working with our partners to transition existing sites so they can remain useful resources for the community, ” Caesar Sengupta, VP – Payments and Next Billion Users, Google.
Google Station started its operation in India in 2015, as a partnership between Google, Indian Railways and Railtel (a state-owned telecom infrastructure provider). The big plan was to offer high-speed and most importantly free public Wi-fi to commuters who come over to 400 of the busiest railway stations in India by mid-2020. Within one year, the service was able to cater its service to 15 lakh passengers (in 19 Indian railway stations). That’s clearly indicating the popularity of the service among Indians. With the speed of implementation, Google completed the task well ahead of the schedule in June 2018.
Google didn’t stop there, the company expanded Google Station outside of Railway stations. The program was successfully implemented in thousands of other location across India, like the Pune (for smart city project). This was done in partnership with Indian telcos, ISPs and local authorities.
However, with the launch of Reliance Jio who crushed internet/data rates of the entire telecom industry, getting online has become much simpler and cheaper. In addition, several governments and local entities pushed their own initiative, which provided general public cheap and almost free access to high-speed internet. India now has the cheapest mobile data per GB in the world, with mobile data prices have reduced by 95 per cent in the last 5 years, per TRAI in 2019.
This essentially, made Google Station program irrelevant to a large extent. Today, Indians have already access to one world’s cheapest mobile data plans and actually, they consume close to 10 GB of data, each month, on average.
“In addition to this changed context, 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,” said Caesar Sengupta, VP – Payments and Next Billion Users, Google.
Google will wind down Google Station program globally, through 2020. The company is already working with its partners for the smooth transition of existing sites. One of Google’s partner, RailTel has already developed its own software stack for delivering Wi-Fi across Indian railway stations and already implemented the same in more than 5,600 railway stations.