Data Too Dear? Set YouTube to Download in India While You Sleep

  • YouTube feature targeted at users in developing markets
  • Google CEO Sundar Pichai outlines India vision in New Delhi

Indians love to watch video. Yet data is expensive for most users, and speeds are often so slow that even a short YouTube clip needs repeated buffering.

Google Inc. says it has a solution: presetting YouTube to download videos at night when data is cheaper so you can watch them pause-free offline. The service is part of the vision for Google in India that Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai presented in New Delhi on Wednesday, along with other features such as adding more Indian language support.

Google Inc. Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai speaks during the ’Google for India’ event.

Photographer: Udit Kulshrestha/Bloomberg

India has more than 300 million people with some access to the web, according to the Internet and Mobile Association of India. But it also ranks 115th in the world for surfing speed, and a majority of the 1.3 billion population can’t speak English -- presenting unique problems for a search giant who’s core business is connecting millions of people to a vast amount of information daily.

“In 2016 there will be more Android users in India than the United States,” Pichai said in New Delhi, adding the company is striving to make Android work in many more Indian languages.

India’s average Internet speed is the second worst among countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and the nation comes in at 115th place worldwide, network equipment maker Akamai Technologies Inc. said in a June report. The scheduled download feature can benefit users on plans such as those offered by Bharti Airtel Ltd. that offer heavily discounted data at night. 

Google is also partnering with India’s railways to offer Wi-Fi access in more than 400 railway stations, covering 10 million passengers each day, Pichai said. The first 100 stations should come online by the end of 2016. He also announced plans to hire more engineers and open a new campus in Hyderabad.

“This country has given me and Google so much,” India-born Pichai said. “I hope we can give much more in return to India in the months and years ahead.”

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