Thursday, 4 April 2013
Indian Rail Passengers to Get Free Wi-Fi
Passengers aboard Indian Railways' Howrah Rajdhani Express (HRE) are already used to amenities, like air conditioning, not available on other trains. Shortly they will have access to another amenity by way of free Wi-Fi Internet. According to an announcement from Railways Minister Pawan Kumar, the country's busy New Delhi train route will be the first to offer the service to passengers.
Indian Railways will invest some USD $1.1 million (£730,000) on the pilot project in the coming weeks and months. If it proves successful, there are plans to add the free Wi-Fi to other express trains in the system. The project is part of an ongoing effort by Indian Railways to boost railway travel and improve infrastructure.
The project's initial phase calls for installing a fixed satellite antenna to one of the HRE's power cars. The signal will be transmitted to individual coaches through Wi-Fi radios designed to offer passengers an access point. Passengers can access the service by providing a mobile phone number and their passenger name record for registration. The assigned login ID will be usable for the passenger's entire trip.
According to Indian Railways, data speeds should average 4 Mbps download speeds and 512 Kbps upload speeds under optimal conditions. Obviously, speed will vary along the route's 1,451 km between Delhi and Howrah. The route covers about half the country and is one of the busiest in the system.
Cross-country business commuters should find the service especially helpful right from the start. It could eliminate some of the lost time associated with travel by allowing workers to be part of an online conference, access a company's IT services remotely, and keep in touch with customers.
Passengers using the service for leisure purposes will also benefit from the ability to enjoy social networking, keep abreast of news headlines, and so on. How much the system is actually used depends only on the number of passengers riding with mobile devices in hand.
The decision by Indian Railways to include free Wi-Fi service is a good one on many levels. Most importantly, it provides Internet access in conjunction with the country's most-used method of distance transportation. Without the access, passengers riding the complete route are cut off from the Internet for extended periods of time. This changes all that.
Second, a more competitive India needs to take advantage of technology as much as possible for both business and social reasons. Installing the free Wi-Fi is just the start for an organisation that plans to implement a number of technological changes within the system. It shows that both Indian Railways and the nation itself are ready and willing to do what is necessary to be more competitive.
All eyes will be on Indian Railways to see if they can successfully pull off their plans. We see no reason why they can't. Once the system is up and running on the HRE it will be just a matter of time before all of India's trains are fitted.