In a major step forward towards its goal of getting the next 1 billion humans online, Google has launched the Google Station program. The initiative is now open for new partners and is aimed towards providing emerging markets, such as India, with a string of free Wi-Fi hotspots at public places.
India has one of the largest potential store of Internet users. Although the country has seen a large growth lately thanks to the penetration of cellular networks into rural areas, there is still a very significant potion of the populace that suffers from bad or even null connectivity. It is to address this issue that Google has come up with the Google Station program.
The growth of the Internet has been explosive in India. Every second, three more Indians come online for the first time — that’s over 10,000 people every hour. But this latest wave of Internet users still has significant barriers to getting the most out of the Internet: low-powered phones, 2G connections, and very little data.
These are exactly some of the problems Google wishes to counter. Towards that end, the company has launched a string of brand new programs that will help India, and other emerging and developing countries that are in a similar predicament, make the move to a larger more connected word. One of the most important of these initiatives in Google Stations.
With Google Stations, Google is looking to give Indians access to high quality internet connections. The program is basically is continuation of Google’s last years partnership with Indian Railways. If you remember, the company in September, collaborated with RailTel to provide Wi-Fi at 400 railway stations in India. The company estimates that the more than 50 stations where the tech behemoth has installed its hotspots, together provide high-quality Internet to almost 3.5 million people each month.
Considering these very positive results, the company has decided to move the program out of railway stations into to other places that see a large gathering of people and thus, would be ideal spots for getting as many people connected to the web as possible.
Why not expand beyond railway stations, and even beyond India? By getting great Wi-Fi into the world’s malls, bus stops, city centers, and cafes all around the world, millions more people will be able to learn, play, chat, work, and find the information they need.
The Google Station will let its partners roll-out Wi-Fi hotspots in public places such as Malls, social hangout points etc. Google Station will provide both the software aas well as guidance on how the appropriate hardware can be used to turn fiber connections into fast, reliable and safe Wi-Fi zones.
The company has also invited would-be partners to reach out to it and hammer out ways to implement its Wi-Fi hotspots in a way through which, the largest number of people would be able to get access to quality Internet
We’re just getting started and are looking for a few strategic, forward-thinking partners to work with on this effort. So if you are interested in learning more about how to work with us to bring high quality WiFi to your venues, please reach out.
The company is looking to eventually give people many hot spots within a few minutes walk from their home, university, or workplace. The points will supposedly be unified by a simple login process that is unique to each user and works seamlessly across all of these hotspots.
For now though, the company is aiming towards scaling its railway station presence upto 100 from 53 and also monetize the service it has hitherto been offering for free at railway stations. Meanwhile, the initiative is certainly a good start (although it may eventually disappoint those looking hunting for free internet) and as Google already hinted, may soon make its way to other emerging markets as well.
And just in case you are wondering about what Google gets from setting up all these hotspots, here you go. One, it can — and almost certainly will — eventually monetize them, turning it into an ISP with millions of customers. Secondly, what is the first website you open up — or at least, use most often — when you fire up your browser? Think about that for a few seconds and you will have your answer.