India Uses Railways to Spread WiFi Connections(11 Jan 2018, BWCS Staff)
The Indian government has confirmed plans to install WiFi at almost 8,500 stations across the country’s sprawling rail network. The move comes as part of the Digital India project and will see many rural and remote communities hooked up with free Internet access for the first time. In total, the project is set to cost some Rs700 crore (US$110 million).
So far, RailTel and Indian Railways have equipped some 216 stations with WiFi facilities serving some seven million log-ons daily. However, these are almost exclusively in major towns and cities.
The Railways Ministry said this week that free Internet access will eventually be provided at every railway station in the country. According to the plan, finalised at a recent government meeting, 1,200 stations have been identified to receive WiFi aimed mainly at train users. A further 7,300 stations have been earmarked to not only serve passengers, but also local people living near the train stops in far flung corners of the rail system.
The plan is that rail stops in rural areas will have kiosks with WiFI that will become digital hot spots offering services like online banking to the surrounding population. The government also hopes that the kiosks will be able to issue official forms and certificates – such as those covering birth, death and voter registration. It is also believed that the populace will be able to use the kiosks to pay bills and, perhaps more importantly from the administration’s point of view, to pay their taxes.
Further, the government argues that the kiosks will help drive commerce by both enabling online ordering and offering a delivery/pick-up point for the local inhabitants – utilising the train system for delivery.
According to Indian Railways’ timeline, 600 stations should have WiFi by the end of March this year. By March 2019 that number should rise to 8,500. The initiative is an extension or an upgrade of Indian Railways partnership with Google first announced two years ago, when the tech major started offering high-speed Internet access for free at select railway stations across India. Google has now started testing a paid model of the Google Station programme.
The system was started as a trial at Mumbai Central in January 2016 and officially launched in collaboration with state-owned telecom infrastructure provider RailTel at 53 railway stations in the country in September of that year.
Indian Railways is also said to be exploring different options to enable better transport and logistics. The state-owned transport organisation might look at bringing in private firms to enable door to door delivery via rail and road. It has also been in talks with e-commerce companies like Flipkart, Amazon, Snapdeal and Paytm for on-board sales of their merchandise in reserved compartments.
Indian Railways will deliver one of the keynote presentations at this year’s WiFi on Trains Conference – Train Communications Systems 2018 (www.Traincomms2018).
As ever, on-board WiFi, trackside networks, the growing market for passenger WiFi services and on-train entertainment will be the main subjects of BWCS’s WiFi on Trains Conference (www.Traincomms2018.com ). For more information please contact Ross.Parsons@BWCS.com
This year's Train Communications System Conference will be sponsored by Icomera, Nomad Digital, Fluidmesh, 21Net, RADWIN and BAI Communications.