Google has announced that its ongoing project to bring Wi-Fi to the public via train stations has hit a major milestone in India.
Google Station, which was first announced in India back in 2015, in partnership with Indian Railways and RailTel, is now available in 400 train stations across the country. This figure is in line with the original goal Google set itself nearly three years ago.
Additionally, Google Station is now attracting 8 million users per month, each consuming around 350MB of data per session on average, according to Google VP Caesar Sengupta, who heads up the company’s “next billion users” team.
India has emerged as a key target for Western tech firms, with the likes of Facebook showing keen interest, Amazon opening its first Indian AWS datacenter, Apple manufacturing some of its iPhones in Bengaluru, and Intel investing $178 million in a new R&D facility in the country. Google, for its part, has been going all in as it targets the millions of smartphone users across the country. Besides its public Wi-Fi hotpots, the company has launched an “offline-first” YouTube app and a mobile payments app specifically for India, and it beat Spotify to launch its music-streaming service in India last year.
India may have been slower to adopt smartphones and internet usage than other markets, but it now claims more than 300 million smartphone users — a figure that will only grow in a country with well over 1 billion people. But access to fast, reliable, and affordable internet remains a problem for many, which is where Google Station comes into play.
Google Station isn’t limited to India, however. Last year, Google expanded the initiative to Indonesia, which was followed by Mexico a few months back. The company plans to continue adding markets to the Google Station mix in the coming months and years. Moreover, Google isn’t limiting the program to stations, as the company said it’s also now available in 150 locations in Pune, a populous city in Western India.
Digital companies are increasingly investing in infrastructure projects to ensure the global masses can access their respective services. Last year, Google and a bunch of partners committed $100 million to an African broadband project called CSquared, while Facebook previously announced plans to use satellites to bring broadband to large parts of Africa. And just yesterday, Microsoft announced that it had launched an underwater datacenter off the Scottish coast as part of an R&D trial. Major technology companies are also committing billions of dollars to subsea cabling projects to bring high-speed internet to every continent.
Google Station is very much part of this general schema, as it’s all about ensuring connectivity for as many people as possible.