The Indian government has been bullish in providing Wi-Fi in trains and railway stations in recent years. After providing Wi-Fi connectivity in the railway stations across India, the government announced that it would provide free Wi-Fi in trains operating across the country. This ambitious project was announced in 2019 by the former Railway Minister Piyush Goyal.
Back then, it was announced that the Centre is planning to provide Wi-Fi within trains in four and a half years. There are many challenges in the same as it requires investment for the towers and equipment to be fitted both outside and within the trains. It also required investors from abroad.
In-Train Wi-Fi Service Dropped
Two years post this announcement; this project has been dropped by the Indian Railways. As per a PTI report, the railways has dropped the project to provide internet connection in trains as it was not cost-effective. This was confirmed by the government in the Parliament on Wednesday.
In a written reply to a question in Lok Sabha, Ashwini Vaishnaw, the Railway Minister, cleared the clouds on this matter. The reply said that the pilot project provided a Wi-Fi internet facility in the Howrah Rajdhani Express train via satellite communication technology. During the pilot project, it was seen that the technology required intensive capital with recurring costs such as bandwidth charges, eventually making it not cost-effective. Also, the available internet bandwidth provided to the passengers on the train was inadequate.
Apparently, the government had to be dropped. As of now, suitable, cost-effective technology for the Wi-Fi internet services in trains is unavailable, the Railway Minister added.
Currently, the Indian Railways has provided a Wi-Fi internet facility at more than 6,000 railway stations on a self-sustainable basis. This service is provided by the RailTel network, which is a public sector undertaking (PSU) operated under the Ministry of Railways. Wi-Fi services by RailTel were provided under Railwire, which is its broadband distribution model.
Prior to this, Google’s Station program debuted in 2016 at the Mumbai Central railway station and added its 400th station in Dibrugarh in Assam in 2018.