New Delhi: During his high-profile visit to the Silicon Valley in late 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the world that Google would provide free public Wi-Fi at hundreds of Indian railway stations in a couple of years.
Received by CEO Sundar Pichai with a handshake, Modi also met Google co-founder Larry Page and former CEO Eric Schmidt, who have now handed over the baton to Pichai to run both Alphabet and Google.
The company immediately began the daunting task, wiring stations after stations in partnership with the Indian Railways and Railtel Corporation.
It launched the first free Wi-Fi services at Mumbai Central station in January 2016.
The company went on to wire more than 400 stations in the country by June 2018, and listened to the demand coming from other countries to do the same and connect millions to free Internet.
Four years later, Google has decided to apply brakes on the free Wi-Fi at over 400 railway stations and the reason is cheap and affordable data on nearly 450 million smartphones.
According to RailTel, free Wi-Fi has reached 5,500 stations across the country.
After Google announcing to apply brakes on free Wi-Fi, RailTel said on Monday it will continue to service free Wi-Fi at all those railway stations.
“We sincerely value the support we received from Google in this journey,” said a RailTel spokesperson.
According to Google, the decision has been taken keeping the cheaper, affordable mobile data plans and mobile connectivity in mind that is improving globally, especially in India.
With 451 million monthly active internet users at end of financial year 2019, India is now second only to China in terms of Internet users, according to a recent report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).
Google said it would work with the Indian Railways and Railtel Corporation to help them with existing sites so they can remain useful resources for people.