Even as millions of Indians are embarking on Reliance Jio’s free Internet offerings, Google and RailTel’s RailWireinitiative hasn’t seen any drop in its popularity and adoption.
A spokesperson of RailTel, the ISP partner of Google for the RailWire project, told Gadgets 360 on Monday that it has seen “a steady growth in both volume of data used by a customer and in adoption of RailWire” since the commercial availability of Reliance Jio last year.
India’s largest industrial house Reliance Industries upended India’s mobile market last September when it announced the telecom operator Reliance Jio with a price war over data. The 4G-only telecom operator has since aggressively undercut its rivals’ tariffs by bundling extremely low-cost Internet data.
Reliance Jio is estimated to have already become the largest telecom operator in the world in terms of the data it handles on its network. RIL’s chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani said earlier this month that his telecom operator has helped India leapfrog to the top in terms of mobile broadband usage.
Jio’s arrival has already seen rival operators such as Airtel and Vodafone aggressively make changes to their data and voice plans to better compete with the new offering. At the same time, Ambani’s efforts have also raised questions whether other similar efforts by Google and Facebook, that are working to provide Indians with low-cost or free data, are still that worthwhile.
In a conversation with Gadgets 360, Gulzar Azad, Country Head of Connectivity at Google India, said Reliance Jio’s commercial availability in India has certainly been a learning experience for the company, but he was quick to dismiss claims that RailWire’s ambitions have received any setback.
“A very impactful 4G penetration started to happen in India last quarter of 2016,” Azad told us. “At that time we were at five million monthly active users with our RailWire project. But since then we have added about 30 to 40 stations and we haven’t seen any decrement in number of users.”
“We have also not seen people using any less data than they were consuming before. The average data consumptions as of July last year was 350MB per user and it still continues to be 350MB per month.”
Azad said this growth in numbers suggest that there still is a lot of ‘latent demand’. “This [railway stations] is a point of convergence for eight billion footfalls across the entire railway system. So at this point, multiple technologies – 3G, 4G, Wi-fi, all needs to come into effect to address the requirements of the country.”