Set up in 2000, the RailTel Corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary of Indian Railways and serves the role of a neutral host for service providers. It is India’s fifth largest telecom infrastructure provider with a pan-Indian optical fibre network and was conferred the status of a Mini Ratna (Category 1) PSU in May 2012. The company was established with a mandate to modernise the railway communications network and provide a reliable and secure OFC network along railway tracks. As far as RailTel’s network strength goes, it has exclusive right-of-way (RoW) access along 65,000 km of railway track passing through 7,500 stations across the country. At present, RailTel’s OFC network is spread across 50,264 route km. It aims to take this number to 8,222 route km in the coming years. The company’s OFC connectivity spans more than 4,500 railway stations. It provides high capacity bandwidth up to 800G at 60 locations. It also has data centres at Secunderabad and Gurgaon, and four network operations centres in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Secunderabad.

Since inception, the government-owned utility has been carrying out multifaceted transformational projects for the digitalisation of Indian Railways; ranging from passenger amenities to the digitalisation of the signalling network of the railways. Further, the company has been actively working towards setting up Wi-Fi services at stations across rural India. A look at some of the key projects undertaken by RailTel and the progress so far…

Key projects

Railtel has been working on various capacity enhancement projects for Indian Railways. The company has launched a nation-wide railway backbone network with STM-4 (600 Mbps) capacity. Further, it has been working on improving both intranet and internet capacities of Indian Railways. Through multiprotocol label switching (MPLS), RailTel has created a virtual private network (VPN) that provides intranet aggregated capacity of over 2 Gbps and internet capacity of over 5 Gbps. It has introduced an MPLS data network for an integrated payroll and accounting system (IPAS), unreserved ticketing system, freight operations information system, and coaching operations information system, etc. It is also managing a mobile closed user group  connection for around 378,000 employees. RailTel is providing national long distance connectivity for railway exchanges on its next-generation network, handling over 3.5 million minutes of talktime per month; a digital subscriber line access multiplexer for broadband at railway colonies with around 30,000 connections; TpaaS and high definition video conferencing services for zonal railways, divisions and chief ticket inspectors; video surveillance systems at 6,124 stations, in 2,400 EMUs and 4,620 coaches of premium trains; and an e-office for 50,000 users of Indian Railways (this project is in its first phase).

Wi-Fi project

Apart from being involved in government programmes, RailTel has taken independent initiatives such as the station Wi-Fi project, which is being implemented in collaboration with Google, Universal Service Obligation (USO) Fund and the Tata Trust. The company has commissioned Wi-Fi services at 430 stations in collaboration with Google. In 2018, RailTel tied up with the USO Fund for setting up Wi-Fi kiosks at 198 stations with the aim to generate employment opportunities in rural India and enable the proliferation of digital economy. Post successful completion of the pilot project, the USO Fund might allot 7,700 more stations to RailTel. In a separate development, in 2018, RailTel implemented Wi-Fi at 99 stations in rural Karnataka, and as of now, it has commissioned Wi-Fi at 848 stations.

The Railway Board has signed an MoU with the Tata Trust for commissioning Wi-Fi services at 4,791 stations by end-2019. As part of this collaboration and its CSR initiatives, the Tata Trust will fund the capex of the entire project, while RailTel will provide IBW, network operating centre services, space and electricity.

In sum, around 1,606 stations are live with RailWire Wi-Fi. As of May 2019, RailTel had over 11 million people using its network and the per month average user count of its Wi-Fi services stood at 10 million users. Total aggregate consumption of data crossed 201,000 TB and RailTel was operating over 12,000 access points on its network. Given the vast geographical spread of its services, RailTel’s RailWire Wi-Fi is one of the largest Wi-Fi networks in the world. On average, around 1 million users use Wi-Fi at railway stations daily. s

Based on a presentation by Jagdeep Singh, General Manager, Operations, RailTel Corporation of India