After Google, Facebook Plans to offer Wi-Fi at railway stations

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After Google, a giant social media, Facebook is planning to associate with Indian Railways for providing Wi-Fi at railway stations and to nearby villages at New Delhi. The chairperson of Indian railways’ Communications arm RailTel, RK Bahuguna, said that the company will start communications with Facebook about the expansion of Wi-Fi coverage to villages in the environs with the railway station.

Bahuguna also proclaimed, “Facebook India has approached us for initiating Wi-Fi. We will engage with the company to extend our Internet access program across railways stations to cover villages in the environs”.

However, RailTel is readily available with an optic fibre-based network across about 4,000 railway stations in our country. At present, the state-owned company is getting RailTel-branded Wi-Fi hotspots in partnership with the Internet search major Google and targets to connect at least 100 railway stations to provide with data network by the end of this year.

RailTel needs to access the Internet to smaller railway stations, to make it available for the villages in the vicinity with the help of extra access points, which is unlike the existing Google-backed plan. Every month nearly 2 million people across 21 railway stations are able to access free Wi-Fi under the Google-RailTel Internet Programme.

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Bahuguna also said, “Through this (Facebook) initiative, we will be able to offer data services up to a 10-km radius from a connected railway station, which can, however, be increased by up to 25 km further via additional access points”. RailTel has the capability to provide the passive infrastructure which adds a local-area network (LAN), optical fiber and power supply for the WiFi system within the station premises in addition to Internet backhaul of 1Gbps at every stop. Mark Zuckerberg-headed Facebook had recently concluded a pilot across 125 rural locations after purchasing bandwidth from state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) and is at present in talks with various Internet service firms for Express WiFi expansion in the country.

RailTel is also an Internet service provider and A licence – the category that holds for it. According to Bahuguna, it isn’t reasonable to provide WiFi service for RailTel, but with the support from the Universal Service Obligation (USO) fund, it can extend this programme to as many as 40,000 villages surrounding 4,000 Internet-ready railway stations across the country.