Mumbai: New tech to help provide faster internet access on city’s rail network

Lakhs of suburban rail commuters served by select telcos will be able to enjoy faster internet on their mobile phones courtesy a new technology.

Cloudextel, which pitches itself as a ‘network as a service’ company, has tied up for a pilot project with Railtel to provide the shared Radio Access Network (RAN) solution at nine railway stations between Churchgate and Dadar on the Western Railway.

The company’s founder and chief executive Kunal Bajaj said it has already fixed up the equipment at the Mumbai Central railway station, and claimed that the results have been very satisfactory with higher data speeds.

At present, subscribers of Vi and Airtel will be able to avail the services without any extra cost or a new login like the one required to log on to a public WiFi, Bajaj said.

Typically, the company fixes up a single base station and then multiple small units across a station to help the connectivity, Bajaj said, adding that a site like Mumbai Central will require an investment of Rs 1 crore.

Cloudextel will commit to a set of parameters on service delivery and the telco pays it regardless of the number of consumers who get served or the data they download, Bajaj said.

The company, a subsidiary of Bombay Gas Company, feels in the next 12-18 months, the project can be expanded to all the suburban railway stations and it will be looking at putting up similar infastructure along tracks as well for better connectivity while travelling.

The same shared RAN solution will be pitched to airports, metro stations and top-grade commercial real estate projects as well, Bajaj said.

At present, it is funded by the parent and has drawn up a plan to invest up to Rs 400 crore over the next five years depending on how the business grows, Bajaj said, adding that it will be looking for external funding as it expands. 

Image: PTI

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