SAN JOSE, Calif. – Google is using virtual evolved packet core (vEPC) technology to support its WiFi network that it’s building to outfit hundreds of train stations in India with wireless connectivity.
Speaking at the Layer 123 NFV World Congress here, Geng Lin, head of global engineering in emerging markets at Google Access, says that the company is using a Google Cloud-based EPC to power the WiFi service so that it can potentially scale to accommodate hundreds of millions of WiFi users.
Google first announced it WiFi initiative for India’s train stations last September in a blog post from CEO Sundar Pichai. The program is part of the Google Access & Energy Team and is being deployed in conjunction with India’s state-owned rail company, RailTel. The WiFi traffic is backhauled over RailTel’s fiber-optic network that runs along most of the company’s railroad tracks covering about 26,000 miles of track.
Lin said Google plans to outfit 100 train stations in India with access points by year-end and eventually expand to more than 400 stations nationwide. “This is a WiFi service but runs as a highly managed service,” Lin says. “You could think of it as carrier class.”
The first train station was outfitted with Google WiFi in January, and after three months, Lin says that Google has already achieved 99.94 percent availability. Plus, he said the service is fully automated.
Users in India are flocking to the service, which is currently being offered at no charge. Long-term, Google plans to offer a paid service but said it will also offer some level of WiFi for free.
Lin said Google has seen 700 percent growth in traffic on its WiFi network month-over-month. He adds that the average usage time is 50 minutes per day, and the average data usage is 366 Mb per day. “This is more intensive usage than an LTE network user,” Lin notes.
Indeed, Google’s been on a growth spurt with its Cloud service, which is behind the WiFi network. Last month in a blog post the company said it is adding 12 regions (i.e., data centers) by the end of 2017.