While a Media representative interviewed Gulzar Azad — head of connectivity, Google India — who spoke about the partnership with RailTel, the challenges faced in bringing high-speed Wi-Fi to 140 of India’s major railway stations, what Google and RailTel have learnt along the way and the road ahead for this ambitious initiative.
“As 4G has emerged, we have seen no dip in the Wi-Fi usage. If you talk about the time when ‘free’ 4G started emerging, we were at about 5 million monthly active users, today we are at 6.5 million monthly active users” Mr. Azad said
Mr Gulzar Azad then spoke about how Google is taking steps to make the RailTel initiative financially viable
Since April, we have made the login process Ad supported and that is helping RailTel from an ISP perspective. The revenue is majorly meant for RailTel. We have a revenue share mechanism which is expected as we are a contributor to the project itself – Google helps build the wireless (infrastructure) and RailTel brings in the Fibre and the connectivity.
While said about what is the minimum speed? – I spoke to many people and got a lot of varying replies. Some people said it is as bad as 128kbps but others said they can stream video for 24 hours.
The quality of your internet is not just measured by the speed. It is also measured by the latency of the network. We have designed the network in a way that even when the network is at low speed, it is still a low latency network. The internet is dynamically configured in such a way that you will still be able perform certain use cases (like opening a search page, running apps like WhatsApp and Messenger) after the high-speed cap gets over after 30 minutes.
This is a great advancement. If you compare this with Wi-Fi in London and San Francisco, you will find that the Wi-Fi is better in both coverage and capacity
Note: The network is dynamically adjusted in such a way that priority is given to those who are logging in for the first time. This is why the 30 minute high-speed cap exists. During our time at the Nizamuddin railway station we got average speeds of 17-18mpbs (download) during the 30 minute unfettered limit. Also, we found out that all access points are already dual-band (2.4GHz and 5GHz capable) in order to cope with future demand.
As a part of Prime Minister Modi’s Digital India initiative, the Indian Railways have partnered with Google to provide Wi-Fi broadband facility to passengers at major railway stations across the country. This Google RailTel initiative was launched in January 2016 and till date has reached 140 stations across India. Their lofty aim is to reach 400 stations by 2018.
Under this initiative, RailTel, a subsidiary of the government of India provides the high speed network via Fiber while Google sets up the wireless infrastructure and provides tech support. The speeds on offer range from 20-40Mbps for 30 minutes after which they are gradually reduced in order to manage bandwidth.