Sushant Ranjan

New Delhi, 16th May 2021: Hazaribagh Railway Station of East Central Railway zone became the 6000th station in the country to have public Wi-Fi. RailTel has successfully completed the work of providing the facility. This Wi-Fi is free for the first 30 minutes of usage per day.

RailTel was entrusted by the Ministry of Railways to provide public Wi-Fi at the Railway stations. The vision was to convert the Railway platform into a platform for digital inclusion. The journey started in January 2016 from Mumbai Central station and in a span of 64 months, RailTel has successfully provided Wi-Fi at 6000 stations across the country. Per day, On average, 3 stations were provided with a Wi-Fi facility.

The work was halted for a few months in 2020 due to a nationwide lockdown to contain the covid19 pandemic. RailTel faced a number of issues like a supply of equipment and a dearth of manpower to execute the work. However, once the lockdown was lifted and the new normal came to force, RailTel re-started the work.

The mission is to provide Wi-Fi at all (except the halt ones) Railway stations and only a few hundred stations are left to reach the mark. The remaining stations are very small stations in remote parts of the country. Due to the unavailability of an optical-fibre network, the execution time is longer but RailTel team is putting all-out effort to complete the task at the earliest.

Puneet Chawla, CMD, RailTel said, “RailTel has invested a significant amount of capex in building this network and to monetize this we have launched a paid wi-fi plan across all Wi-Fi stations. Post 30 minutes of free usage @1mbps user have to purchase prepaid plans for high-speed wi-fi by paying a nominal fee. We are also going to monetize the network through advertisement-based revenue for which we are coming out with an EOI shortly.”

The Wi-Fi is being provided under the brand name of Railwire- the retail broadband service of RailTel. Passengers use this facility for streaming High Definition (HD) Videos, download movies, songs, games, and do their offices work online. Designed to offer users the best Internet experience, RailWire Wi-Fi at Railway stations will be available to any user who has a smartphone with a working mobile connection for KYC considerations.

The prepaid plans vary from Rs 10/day (for 5 GB @ 34 MBPS) to Rs. 75/30 day (for 60 GB @ 34 MBPS) excluding GST. A number of payment options like net banking, wallet, credit card can be used to purchase plan online.

“Though due to lockdowns and lesser train operations, the usage of station wi-fi has gone down in but in the pre-pandemic era, when train operation was normal, we received phenomenal response from users. We recorded an average of 30.01 million user logins per month in Fiscal 2020, and an average of 9,262 TB of aggregated data consumption per month in Fiscal 2020. The average data usage per user was 577 MB per month in Fiscal 2020,” he said.

This was a unique initiative as this Wi-Fi network is one of the largest Wi-Fi networks of the world. Access to high-speed Wi-Fi will help in bridging the digital divide between rural and urban India.

RailTel also envisages extending the Wi-Fi/broadband services to nearby villages using its POPs at the already existing station Wi-Fi. Under the mission of Hon’ble PM of connecting all villages of India within 1000 days, RailTel has submitted a proposal to the department of Telecom, to connect feasible villages of Jharkhand and Maharashtra which is under favourable consideration of the DOT.

Milestones-

Station number

Station Name

Railway Zone

6000

Hazaribagh

East Central Railway

5500

Mahua Milan

East Central Railway

5000

Midnapore

South Eastern Railway

4000

Tinsukia Jn

North Frontier Railway

3000

Ellenabad.

North Western Railway

2000

Rana Pratap Nagar

North Western Railway

1500

Sahibabad

Northern Railway

1000

Reay Road

Central Railway