In 2015, Google LLC –an American multinational tech company that specializes in an Internet-related service has partnered with Indian Railways and public sector unit Railtel to provide free WiFi service in more than 400 railway stations across the country.
It was first confirmed in September 2015 during a visit when Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to Google’s campus in Mountain View, California. In January 2016, the Mumbai Central was the first to went live under the program.
The organization has attracted millions of people to the network for free Wi-Fi. In an interview before with Caesar Sengupta, vice president of payments and Next Billion Users at Google, he said that the partnership with Indian Railways and the government of India helped serve millions of users.
Now, the US search technology giant announced on Monday that it has decided to shutter the free WiFi program station by the end of 2020. Eventually, before it’s launching in 2016 the business model did not work out the way Google had envisioned.
According to a blogpost by Caesar Sengupta, the major reason behind the decision was due to the drastic change in the market, going online has become cheaper and easier over the last five years. With low-cost mobile data available to the public ‘the relevance’ of Station Wi-Fi has diminished as well.
Specifically in India, in the last 5 years, mobile data prices have reduced by over 95% as per TRAI in 2019. Google also said that they have taken into consideration that local entities abroad had begun their own initiatives to provide easier, cost-effective access to the Internet to the general public.
Countries such as the Philippines, Thailand, Brazil, South Africa, India, Nigeria, Indonesia, and Mexico are also affected by the shutdown of free Wi-Fi services.
Nevertheless, according to a statement released by Railtel, even if Google exits, Railtel will still continue to serve the stations under its Railwire Program. Apart from its plan to continually support 5,600 railway stations, Railtel has already provided free Wi-Fi in 5190 B, C, D, stations.
Google has provided the Radio Access Network and technology support, while RailTel has provided the physical infrastructure and internet bandwidth.
“We are working with our partners to transition existing sites so they can remain useful resources for the community,” Caesar Sengupta said.