A global free Wi-Fi initiative of the Internet giant, The Google Station allowed its partner telcos to roll out free Wi-Fi hotspots in public. Google has planned to shut down its Station program after almost 4 years of providing free internet access to people in developing countries. The initiative from the giant offered free public WiFi at 400 railway stations in India and at least 5,000 other places around the world, including in Mexico, Brazil, Thailand, South Africa, and Vietnam. Google’s Caesar Sengupta said the company is ending the program because it was running into issues scaling it. Each of the partners Google worked with to provide public WiFi had different technical and infrastructure needs, which made developing Station into a sustainable challenging business.
It is noteworthy that Google Station has more than 600 venues spread all across the country in train stations, airports, schools, and even coffee shops. All of them are expected to be shutdown within the year. A source in the tech giant said, “We are working with our partners to transition existing sites so they can remain useful resources for the community”. The good news is that most Stations will continue to offer free WiFi. For example, Google’s WiFi partner in India, RailTel will continue to provide free internet access at all 400 stations where the service is currently available. Facebook’s Free Basics initiative was banned in India in 2016 over net neutrality concerns. It seems Station had been widely successful, in spite of the shutdown.
Google said in 2018 that Station had 8 million monthly active users in India, with people who were using the service consuming an average of 350MB per session at the time. The source added, “There is not enough advertising revenue to sustain the partnership with telcos”. Google also said in an official statement, “The prevalence of the 4G network and the different technical requirements across countries where Google Station is deployed are the reasons behind the shutdown. We started Google Station in 2016 to help bring more people online. Our work has been able to help millions of people experience the power of the internet for the first time”.