Facebook has approached Indian Railways about providing Wi-Fi access at rural railway stations across the country as well as to nearby villages.

Indian Railways’ communications arm RailTel will soon start talks with Facebook about expanding its Wi-Fi coverage, the Economic Times reported.

RailTel, which has an ISP licence, has a fibre network that connects about 4,000 railway stations across the country.

The state-run company is in the process of rolling out Railwire-branded Wi-Fi hotspots in partnership with Google and aims to connect at least 100 railway stations by the end of the year. About two million people use the programme’s free Wi-Fi every month at 21 railway stations.

RailTel also wants to expand access to smaller rail stops and bring the internet to neighbouring villages. RailTel chairman RK Bahuguna told the Times that through the initiative it will be able to offer data services to people living within a 10km radius of a connected rail stop.

Earlier in the month Facebook said it was holding talks with a number of ISPs in India to expand its Express Wi-Fi programme, after trials in 125 rural locations in partnership with BSNL.

Facebook has faced a series of setbacks in India over the past year after it introduced its Free Basics service. The country’s telecoms regulator in February ruled against differential data pricing following a national debate and furious lobbying by supporters and opponents of its Free Basics zero rating service.

Free Basics is a product of Facebook’s internet.org initiative that offers users free access to a range of data services, including the social network.