"Internet access has now become an important requirement in day-to-day working and we shall be providing this facility at all railway stations in the country."
The scale of ambition for India’s rail network is set to be matched by the speed of its Wi-Fi network, as the country prepares to equip 8,500 stations across the country with a reliable wireless network available to all. Coming in at a cost of around £80m ($110m), the department responsible for India’s railways, the Ministry of Railways, will connect even the most remote of areas as part of the country’s Digital India plan. The news comes following the initial steps by the Indian government that got the wheels in motion for Wi-Fi services at 216 stations – providing wireless access to seven million passengers.
India is set to join the high-speed rail revolution with a 217mph bullet train line that will link Ahmedabad in Gujarat with Mumbai, completing the 316-mile journey in around three hours – shaving an impressive five hours from the current fastest time. Ahead of completion of that line, which it's expected is to be the first of many high-speed corridors in India, the country plans to compete with the rest of the world in regards to technology connectivity.
Under the plans for India’s roll out of passenger Wi-Fi, 600 more stations will be fitted with the technology by March 2018, with the full 8,500 figure hoping to be reached a year later in March 2019.
To cater for the more diverse requirements of residents not in cities, 7,300 of the 8,500 Wi-Fi locations will be kiosks based in more rural and remote locations. The digital hotspots that will offer not just a wireless connection, but also services such as digital banking and important administration services such as filing taxes and death and birth certificates. The kiosks will also act give users the power to order and collect goods from online e-commerce sites, presumably operating in much the same way as Amazon’s locker service that is widely used across the world.
A spokesperson from the Ministry of Rail said that it was no longer an option to allow the present situation to continue. "Internet access has now become an important requirement in day-to-day working and we shall be providing this facility at all railway stations in the country.”
In related news, the UK government has announced plans to pave the way for the 5G network that will provide passengers with speeds of up to a gigabit. Though still some way away – with a target set by the government for the super-fast internet at 2025 – the UK minister for digital, Matt Hancock, said that by “future proofing” rail connectivity it will enable to get connected where they live, work and travel. “This will not only make journeys more enjoyable and productive, but will help improve the operation and safety of the railway and deliver economic benefits for the whole of the UK,” said Hancock.
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