Google Station Free Wi-Fi Program To End Soon Confirms Company Citing Sustainability Issues

Google’s ambitious program to offer free Wi-Fi internet access on railway stations to passengers is about to come to an end. The search giant cited sustainability issues as the reason for the closure of ‘Google Station’. The program had been successfully launched in multiple countries across the world with an identical deployment methodology.

Google has confirmed that it is shuttering Google Station, a program that rolled out free high-speed Wi-Fi internet access across 400 railway stations in India alone. Owing to the easy and free availability of internet access, thousands of commuters gained access to the internet. Interestingly, besides railway stations, Google had planned to deploy the free Wi-Fi access platform in many popular public places as well. However, the program is abruptly shutting down despite having gained many dedicated users.

Why Did Google Back Out Of Google Station?

The Google Station was, and still is, one of the biggest rollouts of free high-speed internet access. The system works through professional routers that are capable of maintaining dozens of simultaneous connections and routing thousands of data access requests 24×7. Needless to add, these are highly expensive routers, and a large number of such devices are required at every location where Google Station is operational.

Google claims it is unable to sustain the program. Incidentally, over the years, Google also explored ways to monetize the Google Station program. While the company hasn’t offered many details, one of the techniques to earn revenue was by showing an ad whenever a user signed in to connect to its internet service. Commenting on the closure of Google Station, Caesar Sengupta, VP of Payments and Next Billion Users at Google said,

“The challenge of varying technical requirements and infrastructure among our partners across countries has also made it difficult for Station to scale and be sustainable, especially for our partners. And when we evaluate where we can truly make an impact in the future, we see a greater need and bigger opportunities in making building products and features tailored to work better for the next billion-user markets.”

One of the biggest reasons for Google to shutter Google Station in India was perhaps the deployment of the world’s largest 4G mobile network by Reliance Jio. The Mukesh Ambani-led Jio arrived in 2016 with a high-speed 4G network, and the company rapidly gained market share by offering free data access for a long time. The company forced other telecom operators to slash their tariffs.

The Telecom Wars that followed, granted telecom subscribers access to huge amounts of data at one of the lowest tariffs. However, this most likely diminished the appeal of Google Station significantly. Google claims many Indians continue to sign-up and use Google Station, and have routinely shown a great appetite to consume voluminous data.

Google Backs Out Of Free Wi-Fi Program Leaving Local Companies To Continue The Service?

Google Station, the search giant’s ambitious program to offer high-speed wireless internet access at public places launched in 2015. Needless to add, the program helped millions of users to access the internet, many for the first time, and not be constantly worried about hitting data consumption limits. In recent years, Google Station expanded to Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand, Nigeria, the Philippines, Brazil, and Vietnam. The most recent deployment took place in South Africa.

Google may have backed out of Google Station, but the RailTel, Indian company that worked with the search giant for deploying the platform, has confirmed that it will continue to offer the same. It appears Google was responsible for the software stack that supported the hardware-based internet backbone in India. While the service will continue in India, it is not clear which company or agency will ensure the Google Station platform remains operational in other countries.

Alap Naik Desai
A B.Tech Plastics (UDCT) and a Windows enthusiast. Optimizing the OS, exploring software, searching and deploying solutions to strange and weird issues is Alap's main interest.