New Delhi: While Google (Alphabet Inc.) may have hogged headlines in the government’s plans to introduce Wi-Fi connectivity in railway stations, the crucial role of one Indian company has been largely ignored. RailTel Corp. of India Ltd’s optical fiber cable (OFC) network spans more than 45,000 km and is one of the main reasons why this ambitious project to provide internet at 400 railway stations is becoming a reality. In an interview, RailTel managing director R.K. Bahuguna talks about the important projects that the company is handling and how diversification helped it to grow.
What is the role of RailTel in the Wi-Fi connectivity at railway stations project?
The government has an ambitious project of providing Wi-Fi at 400 railway stations and under the initial phase, Wi-Fi has been planned at 100 A1 and A category stations.
Indian Railways, through RailTel, roped in Google as the technology partner for setting the station Wi-Fi. In this tie-up, RailTel is providing high-speed, end-to-end network connectivity on optic fiber and Google is providing the Radio Access Network along with technology support.
It is one of the largest public wifi project in the world as an estimated 10 million people will be using it, once Wi-Fi goes live at all the 100 stations.
The initiative is part of bridging the digital divide and aims to provide high-speed access network to all rail users. The facility can be used for streaming videos, office work or any other use.
By when can we expect the first phase to be completed?
We are planning to complete 100 stations by end of December. At present, work at 19 stations, i.e. 20% of our initial phase target, is already completed. Every week, around 2.5 lakh people are connecting to our Wi-Fi service at railway stations and the number of users is growing by leaps and bounds every day.
The stations where the service is available are Mumbai Central, Bhubaneswar, Raipur, Kachiguda and Vijayawada. Wi-Fi services have been commissioned and soft launch has happened at more than 10 stations, which are Allahabad, Pune, Ranchi, Ernakulum Junction (Kochi), Patna, Guwahati, Visakhapatnam, Jaipur, Bhopal and Ujjain. Work at four stations, Lucknow, Lucknow Jn (NE), Gorakhpur and Sealdah is at an advanced stage. Work on the remaining 300 will be taken up after evaluation of the network at these first 100 stations.