Google to end its free Wi-Fi programme
18 February 2020
Google on Monday announced that it is winding down Google Station, a programme that offered free Wi-Fi in more than 400 railway stations in India and “thousands” of other public places the world over.
Google said it found the Google Station to be an unsustainable business model, which is difficult to scale and monetise. Over the years, Google had explored ways to monetise the Google Station programme, like showing an ad when a user signed in to connect to its internet service.
Google, however, has built the software stack, while RailTel, a state-owned telecom infrastructure provider, delivers the free internet line. RailTel delivers Wi-Fi in more than 5,600 railway stations, and over the years has developed the capability to offer its own software stack.
Launched in 2015, the programme helped millions of users surf the internet — a first for many — and not worry about the amount of data they consumed. But as mobile data prices got cheaper in many markets, including India, Google Station was no longer as necessary, said Caesar Sengupta, VP of Payments and Next Billion Users at Google..
Google works with a number of companies to enable free Wi-Fi for users in public places. “We are working with our partners to transition existing sites so they can remain useful resources for the community,” said Sengupta.
The company plans to discontinue the programme this year, added Sengupta.
Google, in recent years, expanded Station to Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand, Nigeria, Philippines, Brazil and Vietnam. The company launched the program in South Africa just three months ago.
Also, the launch of Mukesh Ambani’s telecom network Reliance Jio, which offered customers 4G data at no charge for an extended period of time, forcing other telecom operators to slash their tariffs, making data dirt cheap in India.
RailTel will continue to service free Wi-Fi in all those railway stations.
Also, besides Google, other tech giants like Facebook offer free internet to users in developing markets.