After Google, Facebook may offer wifi at railway stations, nearby villages

After Google, the social media giant Facebook is looking to connect with Indian Railways to provide Wi-Fi across the train stations. The Chairman of Indian Railways communication arm RailTel RK Bahuguna said that the company had started the discussion with Facebook about expanding its Wi-Fi coverage to not across railway stations but in the villages also.

Bahunguna stated that Facebook India had approached them with the Wi-Fi initiative. RailTel will engage with Facebook for the expansion of Internet access programs across railway stations to villages. However, Facebook refuses to make any comment on this matter. RailTel has a voluntarily obtainable optic fiber-based network across 4000 train stations around the country. The company is currently coming up with a Railwire-branded Wi-Fi hotspot in collaboration with internet giant Google and expects to connect the minimum of 100 train stations by the year-end.

Facebook expanding its Wi-Fi coverage

However different from the current Google-backed plan, RailTEl wants to take the internet accessibility to the remote areas of the company through additional access points. Under the Google-RailTel Internet program, just about 2 million people get free Wi-Fi access every month across 21 railway stations in the country.

Bahunguna said with this new initiative; the company will be able to provide data service up to a 10-km radius from a connected rail stop, although this range could be increased up to 25 km through additional access points. RailTel has massive infrastructure including local-area network (LAN), optical fiber, and power supply for the Wi-Fi system inside station grounds additionally to the internet backhaul of 11Gbps at every station. After acquiring bandwidth from Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL), Facebook came up with a pilot across 125 rural locations and is presently in discussion with a different internet provider for Express Wi-Fi extension across the country.

RailTel is an Internet service provider and has a category-A license for it. Although offering Wi-Fi service is not feasible for RailTel, but with Universal Service Obligation’s (USO) fund support it can be expanded to as many as 40,000 villages closing 4,000 internet-ready railway stations.

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