Indian Railways, RailTel to bring high-speed wireless access at railway stations, says Sundar Pichai

New York: About two million people are logging on to free Wi-Fi deployed by Google and RailTel at major railway stations across India every month, chief of the global search giant Sundar Pichai said.

“We are working with the Indian Railways and RailTel to bring high-speed wireless access to the entire Internet to millions of Indians who travel through India’s top railway stations,” the India-born executive said during an investor call.

He added that there are “already two million people logging in every month and they are using as much as 15 times the data they would otherwise use in a full-day on their cellular networks”.

The Internet giant had teamed up with RailTel, the telecom arm of the Indian Railways, to provide free Wi-Fi at 23 stations across the country. These include Mumbai Central, Pune, Bhubaneswar, Bhopal, Ranchi, Raipur, Vijayawada, Kacheguda, Ernakulum Junction, Vishakhapatnam, Jaipur, Patna, Guwahati, Ujjain, Allahabad and Chennai Central.

By the end of the year, Google aims to provide high-speed public Wi-Fi service at 100 railway stations across India under this project. According to government data, India had a total Internet subscriber base of 342.65 million as of March 2016.

A majority of users log on using their cellular networks. Bharti Airtel has 90.53 million Internet subscribers while Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Reliance had 67.55 million, 44.03 million and 39 million users, respectively.

State-run BSNL had 34 million Internet subscribers on its network. Pichai, who made the comments while announcing Alphabet’s (Google’s parent company) second-quarter results, said mobile phones have changed the way people consume information.

“Our investment in mobile underlines everything we do… (from) search and YouTube to Android and advertising. Mobile is the engine that drives everything.”

He added that through Google’s “deep investments in machine learning and artificial intelligence”, the company is building the engine that drives its future. Alphabet saw its quarter’s revenues grow 21 per cent to USD 21.5 billion while net income was at USD 4.9 billion.