Google CEO assures Wi-Fi Hotspots at 500 Railway Stations during Modi Googleplex visit

Google Inc., CEO Sundar Pichai declares that Google had partnered with RailTel for enabling Wi-Fi at 500 Railway Stations in India

Sundar Pichai (left) and India's prime minister Narendra Modi (Photo courtesy: Google Inc.)
Sundar Pichai (left) and India’s prime minister Narendra Modi (Photo courtesy: Google Inc.)

San Jose, California: Sundar Pichai, Google’s Indian-born CEO, has just given Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, a nice present, and it’s going to benefit millions of Indians. The announcement was made today (Sunday, September 27), following Modi’s visit to Google’s headquarters in California.

In brief, Google has “announced a new project to provide high-speed public Wi-Fi in 400 train stations across India”. The busiest 100 stations should be online by the end of 2016, providing internet access to about 10 million Indians. In a blog post, Pichai said: “This will rank it as the largest public Wi-Fi project in India, and among the largest in the world, by number of potential users.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with CEO Sundar Pichai at Google HQ in Mountain View, California
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with CEO Sundar Pichai at Google HQ in Mountain View, California

The service “will be free to start, with the long-term goal of making it self-sustainable to allow for expansion to more stations and other places, with RailTel and more partners, in the future”.

Google’s “Access & Energy team” will actually be working with Indian Railways and RailTel Corporation, of India Limited (RailTel) – a Telecom PSU under Ministry of Railways, which runs one of the largest fibre optic networks along railway lines with seamless Right of Way.

RailTel says it has laid more than 45,000km of optical fibre along Indian railway routes, and now has 400 cities on its 2.5Gbps backbone network.

Pichai points out that India already has more Internet users than every country except China. “But what’s really astounding is the fact that there are still nearly one billion people in India who aren’t online.”

This is due not only to lack of availability but also to lack of support for local languages and, of course, cost.

The map shows the first 100 stations that will have high-speed Wi-Fi by the end of 2016 (Courtesy: Google Asia-Pacific Blog)
The map shows the first 100 stations that will have high-speed Wi-Fi by the end of 2016 (Courtesy: Google Asia-Pacific Blog)

Pichai says: “To help make web content more useful for Indians, many of whom don’t speak English, we launched the Indian Language Internet Alliance last year to foster more local language content, and have built greater local language support into our products – including Hindi Voice Search, an improved Hindi keyboard and support for seven Indian languages with the latest versions of Android.”

Google India has also launched the Internet Saathi project to get more Indian women online. Women make up just a third of India’s internet users, and only 12% of the users in rural India.

As it happened (in IST):

1:13 am: Later in the day, the Indian community in California will welcome Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a grand reception at the SAP Center. An indoor arena in the heart of Silicon Valley, the SAP Centre has a seating capacity of 18,000, which the organisers said would be full to its capacity, given the enthusiasm among the Indian diaspora. The event is scheduled to begin at 5:30 am IST.

1:10 am: Mr. Modi will attend the India-US StartUp Konnect programme shortly. IT industry body Nasscom, TiE Silicon Valley, and IIM Ahmedabad’s CIIE India will host the first India-US Startup Konnect.

12:55 am: Mr. Modi finishes his address, audience roar ‘Bharatmata ki Jai’.

12:47 am: Many thanks to all of you working for India’s poor and her development. We want to bring your ideas to India: Modi

12:46 am: But over time tech is going to make a qualitative change in our lives, I am sure of this: Modi

12:45 am: “I thought technology helps us save time, but in fact it is the opposite: people are spending maximum time using technology. A mom who has to give her child milk also says, “Wait, I have to send a WhatsApp message””.

12:42 am: I want to encourage hack-a-thons in Indian cities too: Modi

12:41 am: Mr. Modi speaks in Hindi at Google, not English as he did yesterday at Digital India dinner.

12: 39 am: Mr. Pichai announces Wi-Fi hotspots for 100 railway stations; it will be expanded to 400 next year. Also, the rollout of ten-language vernacular typing for users.

12:37 am: Few years ago when we wanted to find out which country would adopt Chrome browser fastest we thought it would be India. We were right, says CEO Sundar Pichai.

12:35 am: Prime Minister Modi and CEO Pichai arrive to a thunderous welcome.

12:20 am: Mr. Modi and CEO Pichai expected soon at the all-night hack-a-thon.

12:07 am: As Mr. Modi and CEO Pichai discuss Digital India, many Indian youth seen participating in the all-night hack-a-thon at Googleplex.

12:02 am: Mr. Modi gets a view of Project Iris — a smart lens system that measure glucose levels.

11:57 pm:

11:52 pm: CEO Pichai explains navigational, safety and other uses of Street View and Google Earth.

11:47 pm: PM asked that Khagaul be pinpointed on Google Earth. Khagaul near Patna is where the great ancient astronomer Aryabhatta had an observatory: PMO

11:45 pm : Mr. Modi takes a tour of Google HQ with CEO Sundar Pichai in Mountain View, California.

11:20 pm: Mr. Modi answered questions from the audience at a Townhall at the Facebook headquarters at Menlo Park, California. Welcoming the Prime Minister to the Facebook campus, CEO Mark Zuckerberg appreciated ‘Digital India’ and talked about the need for connectivity.