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The Indian Railways and Google have deployed their first free public WiFi service starting with Mumbai Central. Google mentions that it will look to cover 100 of the busiest stations by this year end, with the goal of eventually covering 400 stations.

The WiFi will be available for all users but requires a working mobile connection to use (sorry tablet users). On connecting to the WiFi, users need to visit railwire.co.in, then enter their phone numbers in the login screen to receive an one time password (OTP). The password is then used to login to the network.

Note that while the WiFi is available for free, it’s not clear for how long. As of now, Railwire’s website displays various unlimited and fair usage policy plans for Maharashtra, starting at 512kbps unlimited for Rs 499 per month, ranging up to 10mbps with a 40GB limit for Rs 1099 per month. The platform does not yet list any daily or hourly recharges or top ups and its not clear if listed prices are for the public WiFi. The agencies plan to launch this service next at Patna, Allahabad, Jaipur and Ranchi.

Google had announced its tie-up with the Indian Railways and RailTel to provide high speed WiFi coverage in 400 stations across India in September last year. At the time, Google mentioned that it would tie up with partners other than RailTel in the future as well, with the long term goal of making the initiative self-sustainable. In December, the company said that people would be free to access anything they want on its WiFi network and there would be no special zero-rated services.

The public Wifi space has been really picking up steam in India, although questions over security and privacy remain. The rising interest in public WiFi is helped by the fact that mobile data isn’t reliable while smartphone adoption is at an all time high. In less than a month since this new year, service providers have already started offering various public WiFi services in the country

Other public WiFi initiatives:

– Earlier this month, Ortel Communications introduced free public WiFi hotspots for its broadband subscribers, as a value added service in Bhubaneswar

– Internet service provider Joister also launched Joispot WiFi, a free public WiFi initiative in Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai and Pune, with speeds of upto 2Mbps.

– BSNL said it was working on setting up 40,000 WiFi hotspots across the country to make up for the lack of its own 4G services. In November, Facebook and BSNL entered into a partnership to create 100 WiFi hotspots in rural areas in India.

– The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and telecom operator Tata Docomo signed a partnership to offer free WiFi services, to be provided around PJ Tower in Mumbai to the public.