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Station WiFi Programme

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Station WiFi Programme

What to study?

For Prelims: Key features.

For Mains: Significance of the programme, why has it been stopped now?

Context: Five years after it started the ‘Station’ programme to bring free public Wi-Fi to 400 busiest railway stations in India, Google has decided to gradually wind down the service globally.

  • However, users in India will be able to continue using the existing facilities at the over 400 stations via RailTel, Google’s partner in India for the programme.

Why?

  • Google believes that better data plans and improving mobile connectivity have made it “simpler and cheaper” for users to get online.
  • India, specifically now has among the cheapest mobile data per GB in the world, with mobile data prices having reduced by 95% in the last 5 years, as per TRAI in 2019. Today, Indian users consume close to 10 GB of data, each month, on average.
  • Besides the Indian government’s continuous impetus for internet penetration through the Digital India programme, private sector initiatives such as Vodafone’s SuperWi-fi coupled with the entry of Reliance Jio 4G services have drastically brought down the cost of internet subscription. This has been instrumental to the growth of internet users in India.
  • Above all, the challenge of varying technical requirements and infrastructure among partners across countries has also made it difficult for Station to scale and be sustainable.

Background:

  • The programme was kick-started in India in 2015 as a partnership between Google, Indian Railways and RailTel to bring fast, free public WiFi to over 400 of the busiest railway stations by mid-2020.
  • However, the company crossed that number by June 2018, following which more locations were added across the country in partnership with telecommunication companies, ISPs and local authorities.

Sources: the Hindu.