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After Indian Railways, RailTel’s next stop: Digitising villages and leveraging 5G

RailTel India Corporation has contributed immensely to the digital transformation of the Indian Railways. Now, the debt free company, sheerly out of the internal accruals and the digital infrastructure built over the years, will invest in digitising education, villages and offering its infra to private telcos for 5G

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Railtel has metamorphosed from a vanilla bandwidth service provider to the Indian Railways to an integrated ICT provider to not only the Railways but also many other Govt and non Govt organisations.

Extending broadband in the hinterland
The RailTel India Corporation has built one of the world’s largest open wi-fi networks. Over 5900 railway stations have been wi-fi enabled. In pre-covid days, when the wi-fi usage was in full swing, 3 cr people used the wi-fi network on a monthly basis with an average data download per user of 570 mb. “We have deployed broadband Point Of Presence (PoPs) at railways stations, which will now be extended to the areas which fall in the vicinity of these railway stations.

RailTel India has proposed to the Department of Telecom to allow it to extend the RailWire wi-fi services in the areas adjacent to the 5900 railway stations. 5000 out of the 5900 railway stations are in rural areas. These wi-fi services will also give employment opportunities to the local youth as the last mile connectivity will be enabled by the local entrepreneurs, “Going by the PM’s target for rolling out broadband capacities in 6 lakh villages in the next 1000 days, the role of RailTel India can be significant,” says Chawla. RailTel has also planned to devise apps for the local youth, which can provide a big boost for job generation.

As a part of the PM Wani programme, RailTel has put in a request before the DoT to be a Public Data Office Aggregator (PDOA), which enables subscribers to switch between multiple service providers.

Puneet Chawla, Chairman & Managing Director, RailTel Corporation, Ministry of Railways, Govt of India | Digital Technology Sabha 2021



Contributing for BharatNet and Educational ecosystem
RailTel is also a major partner in the BharatNet project. A total of 25000 kms of OFC is deployed by RailTel in Gujarat, Puducherry and the North Eastern states. “Additionally, over 7000 gram panchayats have been provided with broadband capacity by us. Similarly, on the knowledge national network, we have connected 722 institutes of higher learning including the IITs and IIMs on our network. Campus wi-fi facilities have been provided to 26 universities across India,” says Chawla.

RailTel has offered to the education ministry to provide end to end solution capabilities to the educational institutions, Chawla says, “We have the data centers to host the solutions, OFC for the connectivity requirements and if required apps for students can be designed by RailTel India,”

The same platform can also be used for the smart city requirements.

RailTel and digital transformation of Indian Railways   
RailTel has built and is operating a private network for the Indian Railways. The intranet is also built and managed by RailTel.

Very soon, a content on demand service will be launched at railway stations and the trains. Infotainment and entertainment services will be offered in a combination of free and paid formats, which will also be monetised through advertisements.

LED displays will also be deployed at railway stations, showing information related to train departures, arrivals, Govt schemes, etc. Advertisements will also be played on the same.

Starting April 2019, Railtel kicked off the e-Office implementation at over 160 locations of the Indian Railways. “When the lockdown was announced, we had already rolled out eOffice at around seventy locations. During the lockdown,the Railtel employees aggressively accelerated the implementation at other locations using a combination of ways – physical visits, using Youtube and WhatsApp to send tutorial and educational videos, so that the administrative functioning of the Railways doesn’t suffer. As a result, now, over 1.2 lakh employees are on e-Office; 12 lakh files have been created; 50 lakh receipts have been dealt with. By June, 1.5 lakh employees will be onboard the e-Office platform, says Puneet Chawla, Chairman & Managing Director, RailTel Corporation, Ministry of Railways, Govt of India. This was a big contributor to the smooth functioning of the railways during the lockdown because not all the employees were working from office. At times, it was one third working from office and at times it was fifty percent.

A massive CCTV surveillance camera deployment project will be taken up in this financial year.
– Over 14000+ coaches will have CCTV cameras
– 6000 railway stations to have CCTV cameras by next year
– Migrant special trains were run during the lockdown. About 60 stations where these trains either departed or arrived also had surveillance cameras deployed.

RailTel has also been given the project of implementing the Hospital Information Management System (HIMS) for the Indian Railways. “RailTel has completed the HIMS rollout in seven hospitals of the Railways in south central and northern regions. We have also deployed the HIMS platform in private organisations,” says Chawla.

Another path breaking project that will be rolled out soon for the Indian Railways is the LTE, 4G based train collision avoidance system. It will basically stop the train that overshoots the signal or bring the train to the speed that it is supposed to be after it has overshot the signal. The system entails a hi speed mobile communication corridor to be built along the railway tracks. Towers will be built at a distance of 8-10 km, which will host the mobile communication and other applications. The same towers can also be used for colocation for the requirements of 5G capabilities by private operators. It’s important to note, RailTel India has exclusive rights to lay towers along the railway tracks.

The article has been rewritten on the basis of the keynote talk delivered by Puneet Chawla, Chairman & Managing Director, RailTel Corporation, Ministry of Railways, Govt of India at the Digital Technology Sabha 2021. To watch the video, click here

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