indian railways, digital india, suresh prabhu, indian economy, modi, railway employees
Commuters disembark from a crowded suburban train at Churchgate railway station in Mumbai, India, February 25, 2016. Suburban train commuters offer a big opportunity for the government to drive digital economy, as about 80 lakh of them use trains every year, spending close to Rs 2,000 crore.Reuters file

Travellers will now have video entertainment on trains, as Indian Railways under its non-fare revenue cell, plans to provide video content through free wi-fi to improve railway services.

Giant video content providers like Viacom18, Zee, Hungama and Shemaroo are eager to bid for the rights to provide video content on 3,000 trains through wireless intranet. The video content will be available in all major Indian languages, Economic Times reported.

The railways' local wi-fi network will be available to everyone on board and passengers will be able to log in through their phones to watch the content.

According to the railways, the bidders have shown interest during the pre-bid conferences and will actively participate in the bidding next month too. If the deal fructifies, it will fetch the railways about Rs 500 crore annually in non-fare revenue.

"Almost 24 such companies have come forward. We will be charging an annual license fee from the successful bidder," a top railway official said.

However, the internet facility will come with a certain limit as unlimited wi-fi comes with technological challenges and high cost. Hence, to keep a check on the data usage, the plan to distribute content through local wi-fi in all coaches will work well, said the official.

"Earlier, we were expecting over Rs 1,000 crore annually from this segment. But after consultation with stakeholders, it was felt that the market was still not ripe. However, we will easily be able to get Rs 500 crore without even spending a penny as the successful bidder will provide the technology and equipment," the official added.

A distribution box will be installed in all the coaches and passengers will be able to see the content in their own devices.

This video entertainment project will boost non-fare revenue by selling advertising spaces inside and outside trains and railway stations.

Indian Railways expects a yearly revenue of Rs 18,000 crore for such initiatives.