New Delhi: The high-speed free Wi-Fi internet facility has now become available at 6,100 Railway stations across the country, said RailTel on Tuesday. The milestone of 6,100 stations with Wi-Fi coverage was reached today with the commissioning of a Wi-Fi facility at Ubarni Railway Station (Rae Bareli district, UP) over the Lucknow Division of Northern Railway. The responsibility to implement this remarkable Digital India initiative has been entrusted to RailTel. RailTel is providing state-of-the-art public Wi-Fi under the brand name of 'RailWire' which is the retail broadband service of RailTel. "With this, we are close to 100 percent coverage (except the halt stations) and only a few stations are left," said RailTel.
The highlight of this project is that out of these 6100 Railway stations, more than 5000 stations are in rural areas making Wi-Fi facilities available at many far-flung stations across the country like several stations of North Eastern Region and all the 15 stations of Kashmir Valley. Access to Wi-Fi not only connects communities but also opens up a world of opportunity for innovation and growth. India has a stark digital divide between urban and rural India. RailWire Wi-Fi at stations is helping to connect the unconnected as the majority of stations of this public Wi-Fi network are located in rural India with poor connectivity.
Railway stations are places where a cross-section of society converges. The quickening pace of modernisation and manifold increase in smartphone usage has triggered a 'Digital India' revolution. Public visiting stations use this facility for streaming High Definition (HD) Videos, downloading movies, songs, games, and doing their office work online.
Envisaged in the 2015 Rail Budget, the project of providing a free Wi-Fi Internet facility at stations is one of the largest and fastest public Wi-Fi networks of the world and aims to convert the Railway platform into a platform for digital inclusion.
Students, especially competitive examination aspirants from remote locations with limited access to the internet, use the station's Wi-Fi facilities for their examination preparations. Passengers are also using this facility for leveraging entertainment on their personal devices.
Being one of a kind project, there is a need to focus on generating public awareness as well so that the project impact is maximized and hence local Railway Zones and Divisions from time to time keep launching awareness campaigns for promoting this facility. Through Videos and Messages on Social Media, Regular Announcements, Hoarding and Banners at Stations, Indian Railway has been promoting the usage of Wi-Fi facilities by the Rail Users and Passengers.
Designed to offer users the best Internet experience, RailWire Wi-Fi at Railway stations is available to any user who has a smartphone with a working mobile connection for KYC considerations. The facility is very user friendly. To switch on the connection, passengers need to scan Wi-Fi options and choose RailWire. Once the browser takes the user to the RailWire portal, it will ask for a mobile number to which a One Time Password (OTP) will be sent. Once connected, the Wi-Fi connection will last for 30 minutes. This helps the rail passengers to stay connected and updated with information.
The Wi-Fi is 'free' for the first 30 min of usage every day at 1 Mbps speed. For using the Wi-Fi facility further at a 'higher' speed beyond 30 minutes, the user needs to choose a plan with a higher speed by paying a nominal fee. The plans vary from 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 plans online.
Talking about it, RailTel's Chairman & Managing Director (CMD) Puneet Chawla said, "RailTel is at the forefront of National Digital Transformation activities. The Wi-Fi internet facility at stations has become quite popular and useful, especially at stations situated in rural areas. It is a crucial step for Prime Minister's Digital India Mission as this, Wi-Fi facility will go a long way in connecting the unconnected. This initiative of Indian Railway and RailTel has paved the way for the common Indian Railway Traveller to reap the benefits of Digital Technology.
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 after allowing the first 30 minutes of 'free' use. We are also going to monetize the network through advertisement-based revenue for which we intend to come out with an EOI shortly."