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Sunday , 4 December 2016
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Small-town India gets high on free Wi-Fi

Google was in for a pleasant surprise when it noticed that its free, high-speed Wi-Fi networks at railway stations in Tier-II cities were logging in more users and more downloads, as compared to its networks in metro cities. When Google analyzed data from 15 stations, it was revealed that people in Tier-II cities were using the free, high-speed Wi-Fi networks for a variety of activities involving heavy data transfer such as downloading movies, upgrading phone software, and streaming music and videos. With such heavy usage, it may be possible that many people are walking into these railway stations just to make full use of the free, high-speed Wi-Fi network. The amount of data usage at railway stations in Tier-II cities is almost 20 times that of Tier-I cities.

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Google provided the example of Bhubaneswar railway station, which exceeded Mumbai Central’s Wi-Fi user count in a single day. As per records, Mumbai Central, which is one of the busiest railway stations in Mumbai, has an average Wi-Fi user count of 1 lakh per week. When the free Wi-Fi service was launched in Bhubaneswar, the number of Wi-Fi users crossed the 1 lakh mark in a single day. Google has reported similar usage patterns in other Tier-II cities such as Jaipur, Patna, Ranchi, etc.

Google has been providing the free, high-speed Wi-Fi services in collaboration with the Indian Railways and its telecom arm RailTel. As of now, this service is available at 15 railway stations in India. Google has plans to provide such services at 400 railway stations by utilizing the 45,000 km of fiber optic network owned by RailTel. The number of users on the network is increasing fast, from around 3 lakh every week in May to around 4.5 lakh every week in June. By year end, such services would be rolled out to around 100 cities across the country.

One reason why small-town users are getting hooked to Google’s Wi-Fi services is that high-speed wireless internet may not be readily available in Tier-II cities. Some experts also point out to the services being essentially ‘free’, as a reason for the high usage. There is also the possibility that this is a temporary craze around free, high-speed Wi-Fi services, which will wane as users get over their initial euphoria. Irrespective of the reason, railway commuters and other users seem to be having a great time with the free, high-speed Wi-Fi services. Service providers are also happy to witness such a huge response from users.

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