Back in 2015, Google launched an initiative to bring free WiFi to India’s railway stations and today the U.S. tech giant announced that the program has passed its target of reaching 400 stations, attracting a base of eight million users in the process.
The milestone was hit today when Dibrugarh station in northeastern state Assam went online.
Google gave some insight into the scale of the program’s reach when it revealed that over eight million people use the railway-based WiFi each month. On average, the firm said, users consume 350MB in data per session with half going online via the WiFi program at least twice per day.
In another sign of scale, Google began to monetize the initiative earlier this year by offering high-speed connections for a price. The standard option includes ads to develop revenue for Google and its partners, which include Indian Railways and RailTel.
Reaching million users and over 400 stations is hugely impressive but Google said that its journey “remains unfinished.” Beyond connecting stations, the firm wants to add free WiFi to other connection points across India.
“India has the second largest population of internet users in the world, but there are still almost a billion Indians who aren’t online. There are millions of other life-changing journeys that still haven’t been taken. We realize that not everyone in India lives or works near a train station,” Caesar Sengupta, VP of Google’s Next Billion team, wrote in a blog post.
The program is also taking roots overseas. Google has already expanded it to Indonesia and Mexico and Sengupta said that it will make its way to “even more countries soon.”
Google isn’t the only tech giant pioneering a free Wi-Fi model. Facebook’s successor to Internet.org — the program that was banned in India for violating net neutrality regulations — launched in India last year. The company hasn’t said much about it, but it isn’t likely to have anything like the same scale as Google’s.
Free Wi-Fi isn’t the only India-specific strategy from Google. The U.S. firm has launched a series of local services in India, including data-friendly versions of its top apps, a mobile payment network called Tez, a food delivery service and — most recently — a social network for local communities.