Five years after launching a project to offer free Wi-Fi at some of the busiest railway stations, Google has decided to end the project.
The company said that the 'Station' program is not needed anymore and will, therefore, be wound up around the world, including in India, this year.
Here's all you need to know about it.
First, a quick recap on Google Station Wi-Fi program
Google Station was started in 2015 as part of an effort to bring millions of people online by providing them free internet at railway stations.
The project debuted in India - as part of a partnership with the Indian Railways and RailTel - and then expanded to other nations, including Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, and Indonesia.
It was live in 400+ stations in India
In June 2018, the Google-powered Wi-Fi was available at more than 400 stations in India, an initial target the company had kept after launching the project in 2015. Globally, it managed to connect over 5,000 locations through various partnerships in each market.
But, Google says it is becoming difficult to sustain Station
Just a few months ago, Google expanded the Station project by installing free hotspots across 125 stations in South Africa.
However, now, the company has changed its trajectory, saying that it will shutter the project in the coming months.
It says that the different technical and infrastructure requirements of its partners have made the program difficult, and that it can't be grown into a sustainable business.
Also, mobile data is pretty affordable now
Along with sustainability, Google also noted that the cost of high-speed 4G has come down significantly over the last four years.
This, the company implied, has made basic internet services more accessible to people in India (and other parts of the world), changing the target market and making free Wi-Fi efforts less necessary than they once were.
RailTel says existing stations will continue to offer free Wi-Fi
While the project is shutting down, RailTel has confirmed that the stations that had Google's Wi-Fi would continue to offer free internet services even after the company's departure.
The transition will not be difficult as the fiber infrastructure for Google Station already belongs to RailTel; Google only managed the access points and the software side, which RailTel can now hand over to other partners.
RailTel already serves free Wi-Fi at 5,600+ locations
At present, RailTel already offers free Wi-Fi services at more than 5,600 locations. The work has been carried out in partnership with Google as well as other partners like Tata Trust and Power Grid Corp.