In 2015, Google introduced Google Station (an initiative aimed at offering free WI-FI services in public places) in India and planned to cover 400 railway stations in the country. It soon expanded into other countries including Mexico, Thailand, Nigeria, the Philippines, Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia, and South Africa.
Google’s aim at the time was to increase internet access to those who couldn’t afford it, and in turn, make money for itself by showing ads to those that make use of the service. But that didn’t work out as planned.
Google announced recently that it is shutting down all Google Stations globally. It plans to start with the pioneer country, India, with other countries following soon after.
We Saw The Signs
Google launched the Google Station in Nigeria in 2018 with the intention of introducing it in 200 more locations across five cities in the country by the end of 2019. But after more than a year, it is only present in a few locations in two cities (Abuja and Lagos).
In 2019, there were reports that Google Station had gone offline in some locations in Lagos, Nigeria (University of Lagos [UNILAG], Ikeja City Mall [ICM], and the Computer Village).
These were signs that things were not going as planned.
Mobile Data is Getting Cheaper
According to a report by Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), the cost of mobile data for consumers in low and middle-income countries has fallen and continues to fall across all regions every year.
However, because the Google Station project targeted low-income earners who could not afford mobile data, and coupled with the continuous decline in the cost of purchasing mobile data, the need for free public Wi-Fi will continue to drop, putting Google Station out of business eventually.
Faster And Increased Internet penetration (4G, and now 5G)
The introduction of 4G, and in recent times, the 5G network on affordable smartphones, surely has affected the demand for public WI-FI. Public WI-FI stations are less necessary than they used to be in the early days of Google Station.
Also, internet penetration has increased tremendously over the years, reaching remote areas.
Monetization Plans Failed
Google planned to scale the Google Station project with money it made from advertising to those who made use of the service. Google, however, explained that monetizing Google Station didn’t work out as well.
Google Station launched in South Africa with over 100 locations, just three months ago. So, the decision to shut down globally is quite surprising.
Facebook’s Express Wi-Fi (if it is available in your location) is another public Wi-Fi you can try out when Google Station gets shut down permanently in your location. But you should know that, unlike Google Station, Express Wi-Fi is not free.