Coinciding with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Google headquarters last week, the company announced that it would begin providing free high-speed Wi-Fi in 400 train stations across India.
India government’s Digital India initiative, which among other things aims to deliver high-speed internet to rural areas of India by 2019, will definitely receive a boost with Google’s announcement. The internet-search giant is expected to work closely with Indian Railways and its RailTel service, which provides internet access to passengers through fiber-optic cables that run along its railway lines.
The undertaking, which is India’s largest public Wi-Fi project, will see 100 stations equipped with wireless service by the end of 2016 delivering Wi-Fi service to 100 million passengers who pass through these stations every day.
Analysts point out that Google which makes money on advertising is being rational with this tie-up with Indian Railways, one of the world’s largest railway network and a primary mode of transport for many Indians. And anything that expands the total audience fits Google’s model, including giving away things like Internet access.
India’s population density also makes it the next big untapped frontier, now that the Chinese market is maturing. If successful, the Indian Railways project could pave the way for other projects that aim to bring internet connectivity to the unconnected world.