Google Stations rolled out in PHL

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GLOBAL Director for Next Billion Users Initiatives Mahesh Bhalerao announces launch of Google Station to provide free, open, and high-quality Internet for all Filipinos.

By Zsarlene B. Chua, Reporter

TECH GIANT Google has partnered with PLDT, Inc. and its wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, Inc. for the establishment of “open, free and high quality Internet access” in 50 locations around the country.

Google Stations will be located in public areas such as the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminals 1-4, bus terminals, schools, Metro Rail Transit Line 3 and Light Rail Transit Line 2.

“[Google Station] will be in all of Smart’s networks in the next few months… Providing free and high quality Wi-Fi is the first step [in realizing] the vision that Filipinos will be able to get online wherever they are,” Mahesh Bhalerao, global director for Google’s Next Billion Users initiative, said during the Google for Philippines event on Wednesday at the Blue Leaf Filipinas, Parañaque City.

Google Stations allow users to access the Internet for 30 minutes at a time, but Mr. Bhalerao said there is no limit to the number of sessions they can avail of. Users just have to go through the sign-in process after every 30 minute session.

“Smart Free Wi-Fi [stations] will [soon be] converted to Google Station,” Juan Victor Fernandez, head of enterprise business at PLDT, told reporters after the event.

Mr. Fernandez said there are currently 300 Smart Free Wi-Fi sites in the country.

“In each session, users will be able to stream high-definition YouTube videos,” said Mr. Bhalerao of the quality of the Internet access provided in Google Station.

Aside from the Philippines, Google Station has already been launched in India, Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico and Nigeria.

At the same time, Google Philippines also announced new products and updates including Google Go, a lighter version of Google search.

The new app, which comes pre-loaded in smartphones using the Android Go operating system and can be downloaded in the Philippine Google Play Store, promises a user-friendly interface and “lessen typing and more tapping,” according to Simon Tokumine, Google’s group project manager for search.

Mr. Tokumine said the new app–less than 5 MB to download — was built for phones with less than 1GB RAM and those experiencing unstable and/or slow connections.

For a hands-free experience, Google Go also comes with the ability to read to the user a webpage.

Google also announced jobs will soon be included on Google Search. This will allow users to find and track job listings from sites like Kalibrr, Department of Labor and Employment and the Civil Service Commission.

Google Maps will get an upgrade, including a number coding feature in partnership with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) which will “allow drivers to get to their destination while avoiding restricted roads on their coding day.”

Google Maps also included an update for motorcycle riders on iOS phones providing turn-by-turn navigation, as well as a street view update for Boracay island in Malay, Aklan.

Also Google announced its collaboration with PLDT Enterprise to help verify Filipino business profiles through an online process and support them to get their businesses listed on Google Maps and Search.

“The Internet is creating opportunities for individuals and businesses to connect, learn and grow which is reflected in the economic growth the country has seen in the last five years. However, we can only sustain this growth by building a strong foundation for inclusive growth… We believe technology can play a critical role in making this happen [by] enabling connectivity and access to the Internet; providing relevant and useful content; and localized products and experiences for all,” Kenneth Lingan, Google Philippines country said in a statement.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls.