Less than a year after Google experimented with connecting railway stations in India with free Wi-Fi service in September 2015, the company recently announced that it will soon launch a similar project to eventually bring fast Wi-Fi service across the world. Google plans to bring fast Wi-Fi to major county landmarks like malls, commercial centers, and transportation hubs with a new project initiative called Google Station. At Google’s second installment of “Google for India” event in New Delhi last September 27, 2016, Caesar Sengupta, VP for Google’s Next Billion Plan, announced the company is opening this platform to everyone who has a good internet connection. The new project Google Station gets its inspiration from the recent success of Google’s partnership with Indian Railways and India RailTel to provide free Wi-Fi service all railway stations all across India. According to Google, the service is now live in 52 stations and now service over 3.5 million users every month.
Google also estimates that around 15,000 Indians access the internet for the first time using the said free Wi-Fi service each day. In Google’s official website, the company encourages people to connect with Google, and to discuss how they can help bring internet to more people by partnering with Google. The company also plans to offer monetary benefits to potential partners. For quite some time, Google already realized that not everyone can use Google’s full array of online services without an internet connection and that in many countries internet access is expensive while free Wi-Fi is very limited only in restaurants and coffee shops. To access the Wi-Fi you need to order or drinks. Fast speeds, reliable connections, and data privacy must be the key components of the service, as another target area for these free Wi-Fi services will be schools, colleges, and universities. Sengupta further added that “Google wants to partner with large venues, organizations, mall owners, network operators, fiber providers, system integrators, and infrastructure companies.”
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The experiment in India proves that the project can work and now the company wants to expand it on a more global scale. In fact, plans are already rolling out to begin free Wi-Fi access in India beyond the railway stations such as malls, schools, and government buildings. However, while the Google free Wi-Fi access is free in India, some analysts and experts are questioning if whether or not Google Station will carry a price tag in other countries. Also, there is a little bit of confusion of the company’s focus on Google Fiber while attempting to expand on wireless connections. Google did clarify in August 2016 that it has the technology convert fiber speeds into wireless connections, though nothing on this topic was clarified. This new project is also abuzz as to how countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, and the Philippines will respond, given the fact that internet providers there have become notorious in paying off government officials to keep internet speeds slow while charging exorbitant rates.