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There is no better feeling than finding free WiFi in a place with long waits—a railway station, especially. For the past few years, people across the country could access the internet without a fee at many railway stations, thanks to the Google Station WiFi, in association with Railtel. However, this facility will be withdrawn in 2020, not just in India but in many countries—Nigeria, Thailand, Mexico, Brazil, Philippines, South Africa, and Indonesia.
Why now? According to a blog post by Caesar Sengupta, the Google India Vice President of Payments and Next Billion Users, this is a result of the changes in the technology market. India now has some of the cheapest mobile data plans in the world, and the increase in availability and accessibility of the internet has played a major role in this decision. The company statement mentions that data prices in the country have fallen by 95% in the past five years.
Will there be any internet access in the future? Though the Google branding under the ‘Station’ programme will disappear, partners Railtel will continue to provide free WiFi under the RailWire programme. This service will be available at over 5,600 railway stations across India. Currently, 5,190 stations are under Railtel which will now take over the 400 stations that were under the Google ‘Station’ programme.
The ‘Station’ programme was initially announced in September 2015, and by January 2016, Mumbai Central became the first railway station to go live under the facility. Public service undertaking Railtel was Google’s partner for this endeavour which fell under their Next Billion Users programme that aimed to bring services to users who were not online.
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