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Airtel and Google mulling Indian Wi-Fi partnership

Airtel and Google mulling Indian Wi-Fi partnership

Bharti Airtel has approached Google to discuss the possibility of installing Wi-Fi hotspots across India to bolster its broadband coverage.

The current Indian market leader has expressed its interest in Google Station, a project launched by the US tech giant in 2016. The public Wi-Fi project secured Indian Railways and its communications unit RailTel as partners, and deployed hotspots in railway stations across the nation.

Google is now looking to extend this coverage to coffee shops, shopping malls and universities, and is seeking out more partners for the initiative in order to grow it. Google India country head Gulzar Azad said that the firm was holding discussions with all Indian service providers, including ISPs.

Airtel has not announced any concrete plans, but increasing its Wi-Fi resources would allow it to offload traffic from its cellular network and thereby drive down the amount of investment that would be needed for it to boost its base station capacity. This would help it compete against the 4G newcomer Reliance Jio, which has dramatically shaken up the market.

In May, Airtel and Facebook announced that they had partnered to launch the social media firm’s Express Wi-Fi service in India, which will see a further 20,000 hotspots deployed across the country. Facebook is also collaborating with Indian Railways to offer Wi-Fi access at stations in rural areas. RailTel, which holds an ISP licence, operates a fibre network that covers around 4000 railway stations throughout India. Google Station has thus far installed hotspots at over 100 stations.

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