Google’s initiative to build Wi-Fi internet infrastructure at railway stations has now caught Facebook’s fancy, which has now approached Indian Railways offering to provide Wi-Fi access at Indian railway stations as well as to nearby villages.
As per a report in the Economic Times, Indian Railways’ communications arm RailTel will soon start talks with Facebook about expanding its Wi-Fi coverage.
RailTel has an optic fibre-based network that connects about 4,000 railway stations in the country. It is capable of providing the passive infrastructure that includes optical fibre, local-area network (LAN) and power supply for the WiFi system within station premises in addition to Internet backhaul of 1Gbps at each station.
The state-run company is in the process of rolling out Railwire-branded Wi-Fi hotspots in partnership with Google and aims to connect at least 100 railway stations by the end of the year. About two million people use the programme’s free Wi-Fi every month at 21 railway stations.
Through a new partnership with Facebook, RailTel plans to expand its WiFi service to small villages near railway stations.
RK Bahuguna, chairman of Indian Railways' communications arm RailTel, told the Economic Times that through the initiative it will be able to offer data services to people living within a 10km radius of a connected rail stop.
"This can be further increased up to 25 Km through additional access points. In this way, RailTel could provide Internet access to more than 40,000 villages surrounding 4,000 railway stations where it is already present, Bahuguna added.
Earlier in the month Facebook said it was holding talks with a number of ISPs in India to expand its Express Wi-Fi programme, after trials in 125 rural locations in partnership with BSNL.
Over the past year, Facebook has faced a series of setbacks in India after it introduced its Free Basics service.
The country’s telecoms regulator in February ruled against differential data pricing following a national debate and furious lobbying by supporters and opponents of its Free Basics zero rating service.