RailTel has successfully completed the work of providing public Wi-Fi at 6000 stations across the country.
Hazaribagh Railway Station of East Central Railway zone, became the 6000th station in the country to have public Wi-Fi. This Wi-Fi is free for first 30 minutes of usage per day.
RailTel was entrusted by the Ministry of Railways to provide public Wi-Fi at the Railway stations. The vision was to convert the Railway platform into a platform for digital inclusion. The journey started in January 2016 from Mumbai Central station and in a span of 64 months RailTel has successfully provided Wi-Fi at 6000 stations across the country. Per day, On an average, 3 stations were provided with Wi-Fi facility.
The work was halted for few months in 2020 due to nationwide lockdown to contain covid19 pandemic. RailTel faced a number of issues like supply of equipment and dearth of manpower to execute the work. However, once the lockdown was lifted and the new normal came to force, RailTel re started the work.
The mission is to provide Wi-Fi at all (except the halt ones) Railway stations and only few hundred stations are left to reach the mark. The remaining stations are very small stations at remote parts of the country. Due to unavailability of optical fiber network, the execution time is longer but RailTel team is putting all-out effort to complete the task at the earliest.
The Wi-Fi is being provided under the brand name of Railwire- the retail broadband service of RailTel. Passengers use this facility for streaming High Definition (HD) Videos, download of movies, songs, games, and do their offices work online. Designed to offer users the best Internet experience, RailWire Wi-Fi at Railway stations will be available to any user who has a smartphone with working mobile connection for KYC considerations.
Talking about the success of the Wi-Fi network, Sh. Puneet Chawla, CMD/RailTel said, “RailTel has invested a significant amount of capex in building this network and to monetize this we have launched paid wi-fi plan across all Wi-Fi stations. Post 30 minutes of free usage @1mbps user have to purchase prepaid plans for high speed wi-fi by paying a nominal fee. We are also going to monetize the network through advertisement-based revenue for which we are coming out with an EOI shortly.”
The prepaid plans vary from Rs. Rs 10/day (for 5 GB @ 34 MBPS) to Rs. 75/30 day (for 60 GB @ 34 MBPS) excluding GST. A number of payment options like net banking, wallet, credit card can be used to purchase plan online.
Though due to lockdowns and lesser train operations, the usage of station wi-fi has gone down but in pre pandemic era, when trains operation was normal, we received phenomenal response from users. We recorded an average of 30.01 million user logins per month in Fiscal 2020, and an average of 9,262 TB of aggregated data consumption per month in Fiscal 2020. The average data usage per user was 577 MB per month in Fiscal 2020.
This was a unique initiative as this Wi-Fi network is one of the largest Wi-Fi networks of the world. Access to high-speed Wi-Fi will help in bridging the digital divide between rural and urban India. There were many heart-warming stories of wi-fi at stations helping people. A porter in Kerala used station Wi-Fi to study for Kerala Civil Service exam, cancer patients in Mumbai using station Wi-Fi to keep themselves entertained or mother helping her son to study by downloading materials using station Wi-Fi are few of them. Students using their waiting time to download study materials, vendors using the service for digital payment transactions, daily passengers using their time at stations learning new skill or surfing net – the Wi-Fi has been a boon to these people who otherwise suffers from poor connectivity issues.
Access to broadband internet to masses is still limited due to non-ubiquitous coverage of LTE. WiFi hotspots hold an important place in last mile connectivity for delivery of broadband access to users. The Union Cabinet headed by Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi approved the proposal of Department of Telecom (DoT) to proliferate Broadband through Public Wi-Fi networks under the framework of the PM Wi-Fi Access Network Interface (PM-WANI). PM WANI is an exciting opportunity to proliferate and cascade Internet consumption what PCOs did by enabling Long Distance Calling in low tele-density regime. RailTel believes that the PM-WANI framework will evolve over a period of time and benefits will multiply once all WiFi networks can be virtually consolidated to enable seamless roaming across all PDOAs’ networks, the way National Roaming works for Mobile Networks. RailTel will play anchor role in entire PM-WANI eco-system, by continuous engagement with regulatory bodies and industry players, to enhance evolving framework.
RailTel also envisages to extend the Wi-Fi / broadband services to nearby villages using its POPs at the already existing station Wi-Fi. Under the mission of Hon’ble PM of connecting all villages of India within 1000 days, RailTel has submitted a proposal to department of Telecom, to connect feasible villages of Jharkhand and Maharashtra which is under favourable consideration of the DOT.
RailTel, a “Mini Ratna (Category-I)” Central Public Sector Enterprise, is one of the largest neutral telecom infrastructure providers in the country owning a Pan-India optic fiber network covering several towns & cities and rural areas of the country. Along with a strong a reliable network of 59098 RKM of Optic fibre , RailTel has two MeitY empaneled tier III data centers as well. With its Pan India high-capacity network, RailTel is working towards creating a knowledge society at various fronts and has been selected for implementation of various mission-mode projects for the Government of India in the telecom field. RailTel offers a bundle of services like, MPLS-VPN, Telepresence, Leased line, Tower Co-location, Data center services etc. RailTel is also working with the Indian Railways to transform railway stations into digital hub by providing public Wi-Fi at railway stations across the country and total 6000 stations are live with RailTel’s RailWire Wi-Fi.