Most of the markets it is now looking at in hopes of gaining the next billion internet users have demographics similar to that of India.
After deploying Wi-Fi at 400 railway stations, infotech giant Google is taking its Google Station project outside India to other countries, including Indonesia and Mexico. Sources mention Southeast Asia, Latin America and some other countries in this sub-continent.
The company is also in talks with multiple companies for deployment of the public Wi-Fi in India.
In 2015, it had collaborated with RailTel for free Wi-Fi at 400 stations. "We are constantly looking at other areas. We are talking to a lot of people, including telecom companies," said K Suri, Google India, director, partnership, Next Billion Users.
Most of the markets it is now looking at in hopes of gaining the next billion internet users have demographics similar to that of India. So, it would be easier to roll-out Wi-Fi there, sources said.
Google is also in talks with the governments of Delhi, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka to deploy public services.
The company has commissioned a study with Analysys Mason states that deployment of public Wi-Fi is expected to connect 40 million new users to the internet by 2019, and translate into tangible benefits to gross domestic product by around $20 billion.
"Around 100 million people would be willing to spend an additional $2-3 billion per year on handsets and a similar amount on cellular mobile broadband services," the report said.
Estimates suggest India currently has 36,000 commercial hotspots. China has about 6.1 million; Indonesia and Mexico 165,000 each.
While Google is still earning from its public Wi-Fi services via advertisements, it is exploring other revenue sources. These include a subscription-based model and paying per gigabyte.
Suri added that there is an opportunity to develop a wider connectivity system with public Wi-Fi as a key component.
The scale of the Google-RailTel project is , he said, fast and affordable public Wi-Fi can help in bringing more people online. On average, users were consuming atleast 300MB on the RailTel Wi-Fi.
Asked if usage had been affected after the launch of Reliance Jio's services Suri answered in the negative. He said the market had evolved rapidly in 2017, especially after the entry of Reliance Jio.
Photograph: Tomas Bravo/Reuters