- Plans starting at Rs.10 for 5 GB data
- Speeds of up to 34 Mbps promised
- Service live at 4000 railway stations
RailTel had launched RailWire free public wifi in partnership with Google at railway stations across the length and breadth of the country a few years back and last year Google decided to back out of the joint venture and RailTel deciding to go forward solo with the ambitious project which aims at bridging the digital divide by bringing free internet connectivity to people. RailWire has now launched a paid high-speed wifi service which was piloted at 20 stations in Uttar Pradesh and has now been expanded to over 4000 stations all over India.
We at OnlyTech decided to test the paid wifi service across multiple stations in Mumbai. Connecting to the RailWire wifi network is an easy process with OTP based authentication process using your existing mobile number. You are presented with a choice of whether you wish to use the free 30 min plan with a connection speed of 1 Mbps or opt for a paid plan with a connection speed of up to 34 Mbps. Upon clicking on the paid option you are shown a list of plans with data quota ranging from 5 GB to 60 GB and validity ranging from 1 day to 30 days. The plan details are visible in the image above and prices are inclusive of 18% GST.
Upon plan selection, you are presented with a form that asks for your name, pin code, email, address, GSTIN and asks you to choose a payment gateway between Billdesk and PayTM. The next page gives you a list of acceptable modes of payment including debit card, credit card, net banking, and UPI. Please ensure that if you select UPI, your phone should be capable of using mobile data while connected to the wifi network without internet access otherwise you may not receive the payment request and the payment will fail.
Once the payment is successful you will be connected to the wifi and be able to use the high-speed network. We conducted a speed test at 3 different stations and found that even though the plan says up to 34 Mbps, the speeds are actually capped at 10 Mbps, though the good thing is that it is a symmetric connection with low latency and apparently no packet loss. Note that you will have to manually sign back in at every new station that you use the service at, though it will not need an OTP if you use the same number as used previously. On every sign in it will show the remaining data balance and validity as visible in the image above.
These plans can come in handy for travelers on long-distance trains who could download movies and tv series on OTT apps at major stations where the trains halt for longer duration and watch them offline throughout the journey. In pre-COVID times, more than 2.9 crore people were using the RailWire wifi service monthly. Once the situation normalises and footfall at stations becomes regular, a revenue of Rs 10-15 crore annually is expected from the paid WiFi. The company mentioned an additional revenue of over Rs 60 crore from its content on demand (COD) initiative is also expected.