Google to set up Wi-Fi at 400 Indian railway stations

28 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Modi US visit: Indian flavour at Google HQ.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is one of the first Indian leaders to interact with the top CEOs and business leaders of Silicon Valley, during his second US stint.Padachuri, who runs a construction business in this city, the center of India’s technology industry, uses his smartphone to reserve movie seats through BookMyShow and to order pizzas from Domino’s.

There is a hunger in India to have more information and being able to connect, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has said as he promised to deliver high-speed internet at 500 railway stations in the country. His wife, Vasavi, orders clothes from Myntra and Amazon.com, and downloads videos and games from YouTube and the Google Play store to entertain their 4-year-old daughter. Modi, who took a tour of the Google campus seeing the latest products and forward-looking researches, was given a presentation of Google Earth in which the ghats of his Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi were shown. They all stay in touch via a group chat they have set up on WhatsApp, a free messaging service owned by Facebook. “There’s no need to call each other,” Rakesh Padachuri said last month during an interview at his home, which is next to a Best Western hotel.

Among the prominent announcements from Modi’s Silicon Valley visit are: According to a recent report released by the United Nations Broadband Commission titled, ‘The State of Broadband’ report prior to the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development said that India slipped in global rankings on broadband penetration. He appreciated and encouraged Google to develop Apps which could benefit the common man as he participated in Hackathon under which its employees sat for 15 hours straight to devise such Apps for use in India. The PM’s visit has also come with some key announcements and along with discussions on future possibilities of certain new technologies coming to India. The Padachuri family’s love of technology helps explain why India and its 1.25 billion residents have become the hottest growth opportunity — the new China — for US Internet companies.

While many may argue that it is the Government’s responsibility to provide an effective and affordable access to broadband internet, the fact remains that India is now behind countries such as Syria and Sudan in terms of internet penetration. So we are very excited that we are starting with 100 of the busiest stations. 10 million passengers go through them every day and we hope to expand and we hope to expand it to 400 stations by the end of next year,” Pichai said. “We are talking about high-definition [wi-fi], video streaming being possible on these connections, so this is very, very high speed Internet,” he said. Blocked from China itself or frustrated by the onerous demands of its government, companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter, as well as startups and investors, see India as the next best thing. “They are looking at India, and they are thinking, ‘Five years ago, it was China, and I probably missed the boat there.

Recalling his young days when he used to travel by train from Chennai to Kharagpur, Pichai noted that 25 million people daily ride the Indian Railways which has 7500 stations. Now I have a chance to actually do this,'” said Punit Soni, a former Google executive who was lured back to India recently to become the chief product officer of Flipkart, a Bangalore e-commerce startup similar to Amazon. Pichai stressed that these connections would enable streaming of high definition video content, stressing that they would not just enable connectivity but enables consumption of high bandwidth video. During a meeting in Seattle on Wednesday with US technology executives, China’s president, Xi Jinping, was unwavering on his government’s tough Internet policies. While Google focussed on high speed connectivity, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced that Microsoft will partner with the Indian government to bring low-cost internet connectivity to 5,00,000 Indian villages.

He also announced that Google will launch an Android next month enabling users to type in 11 Indian languages, including Modi’s mother tongue Gujarati. “Today, everybody spends maximum time on the internet…Even when a child asks him mother to give milk, she says ‘wait, first let me forward this WhatsApp’,” Modi said, evoking laughter all around. After a stop in New York City, he headed to Silicon Valley, where he visited Tesla and attended a dinner with tech chieftains including Satya Nadella of Microsoft and Sundar Pichai of Google. During the townhall at the Facebook HQ with CEO Mark Zuckerberg, PM Modi responded to a query on how effective the Make in India campaign would be and the ease of changing the course of things. Pichai said that there was immense “hunger” for technology in India which was reflected when Google launched Chrome browser some time back and India was the first country to adopt it in major way.

This will rank it as the largest public Wi-Fi project in India, and among the largest in the world, by number of potential users.” The project will start with Chennai. He also planned to drop by Google and Stanford University, mingle with entrepreneurs and address a sold-out arena of 18,000 people in San Jose, California, before heading back to New York to meet with President Barack Obama on Monday. “For India to keep making progress, it needs to be a leader online,” Modi said during the Facebook event. He goes on to note in the blog, ” It will also be fast—many times faster than what most people in India have access to today…” What he doesn’t mention is if Google will be bringing Google Fibre as part of its expansion project. Yet “we are barely scratching the surface of availability of Internet to the masses,” said Amit Singhal, Google’s senior vice president in charge of search, who emigrated from India to the United States 25 years ago.

Qualcomm and investments for start-ups: Qualcomm, announced a $150 million (approximately Rs 9.8 billion) venture investment fund for start-ups in India via its Qualcomm Ventures. Qualcomm also launched a “Design in India Initiative and Competition” to help India become a hub for design capabilities that drive the manufacturing value chain for 3G/4G smartphones, tablets and Internet of Everything (IoE). And that only touches on Facebook’s ambitions in India. “We need to focus on the billion people who are not connected,” said Kevin D’Souza, head of growth and mobile partnerships for Facebook India. Qualcomm will also set up an Innovation Lab in Bangalore to provide technical and engineering support to Indian companies, and support for multiple Indian mobile device design companies. “We are committed to providing local innovative start-ups with the support needed to help India’s IOE (Internet of Everything) ecosystem grow, increasing consumer choice and availability,” Qualcomm executive chairman Paul E Jacobs said in his remarks at the dinner hosted in honour of Modi. PM Modi and the meeting with Tesla Motors: While there were no concrete announcements after PM Modi and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, as we reported, the meeting was primarily due to India’s interest in the company’s solar Powerwall technology.

Under an umbrella initiative called Internet.org, Facebook is also working with a local cellphone operator to offer a package of free services, including news, job listings and text-only versions of Messenger and its social network aimed at those who can’t afford a data plan. Making money is also difficult in India, where the amount spent on digital advertising is expected to total about $940 million this year, according to eMarketer — a fraction of the $58 billion that is expected to be spent in the US. Zuckerberg said, “Early on in our history when things weren’t really going well – we had hit a tough patch and a lot of people wanted to buy Facebook – I went and I met with Steve Jobs and he said that to reconnect with what I believed was the mission of the company, I should go visit this temple in India that he had gone to early in the evolution of Apple, when he was thinking about what he wanted his vision of the future to be.” Zuckerberg did heed the advice.

He added that seeing the way people connected in India made him believe that the world would be a better place if everyone had a stronger ability to connect. He mentioned the huge opportunities India offered,” Ministry of External Affairs Spokesman Vikas Swarup told reporters. “Cook responded positively. He particularly was interested in the whole App development economy, which he said could be a very very important factor for entrepreneurship where individual app developers can just become part of the app universe,” he added. Google, Facebook and Twitter have all added support for more Indian languages and are prodding developers and users to create more local-language content.

To deal with India’s poor mobile data connections, which can run at a hundredth of the speed that Americans expect, Google is compressing Web pages on its servers so that they use 80 percent less data and load four times as fast. Similarly, Indians can download YouTube videos while they have a high-speed connection, such as Wi-Fi at school or work, and save them to watch later when they are offline. To reach them, Google has formed a partnership with Intel and a local charity to send female tutors, who travel by bicycle, to thousands of villages to teach rural women about the Internet. Using technology pioneered by ZipDial, Twitter allows people to view the tweets of cricket stars, politicians or brands by calling a special phone number, then immediately hanging up. The idea is to reposition Twitter as a real-time news service, instead of a collection of random items from random accounts. “This is a market where we can do tests,” said Amiya Pathak, a founder of ZipDial and a director of product management at Twitter. “Prove it out in India first, and as you prove it out, take it to other markets.”

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