Many of us today take internet connectivity for granted. Thanks to improving cellular architecture, high-speed data connectivity, and a steadily increasing number of public WiFi hotspots in many countries, internet access is often assumed to be a given. However, there are a large number of developing markets which still have patchy internet connectivity at best.
To address this gap, quite a few businesses have come up with projects, such as Elon Musk’s ambitious Starlink project, or X’s Project Loon. Google, for its part, has set up its own project for widespread internet connectivity, called Google Station, and it is now taking it to Mexico.
Image: Google Station
In a blog post yesterday, March 13, Jack Fermon, a member of the Google Station engineering team revealed that the service was now available in over 60 locations across Mexico. Google has partnered with Sitwifi, one of Mexico’s largest public WiFi providers, to convert their existing hotspots to Google Station access points. Locations include high-traffic points such as airports, shopping malls, and public transit stations, and Google by the end of the year Google aims to extend the network to over 100 locations.
Google Station was originally launched in India in 2016 as a pilot project that tied up with RailTel, the telecom arm of the Indian Railways, to launch free-to-access public WiFi across various railways stations across the country. The project eventually moved beyond train stations, and also expanded to Indonesia in August last year. Google Station currently boasts roughly 8 million users every month in India, and the company sees great potential for its growth in Mexico as well.
Telecom provider America Movil, owned by billionaire Carlos Slim, has heavily dominated Mexico’s market for many years, but a major reform movement in 2013-14 by the Mexican government led to the market opening up. According to a 2017 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the number of people accessing the internet in Mexico grew by 20 million between 2013 and 2016. However, the report added that the country’s internet reach still lags behind other OECD nations.
In the blog post, Jack wrote, “In Mexico, the third highest Internet penetration country in Latin America, most people access the web through mobile. But even as data plans are more affordable than ever, people are always looking for ways to enjoy the web without using up their data. And access to information is still a challenge for many.” This challenge is exactly what Google Station aims to answer.
Mexico is Google’s first entry point into Latin America for Google Station. It is now active in 45 cities across Mexico, including capital Mexico City. Though there is no word yet on which country Google Station will head to next, Google is hopeful that the project’s success in Mexico will open up the larger Latin American market to it.