Facebook rolls out 'Express Wi-Fi' in India

Facebook rolls out 'Express Wi-Fi' in India

Following the footsteps of Goolge, social networking giant Facebook on Thursday rolled out ‘Express Wi-Fi’ service in India. The service offers Internet facility through 20,000 public hotspots to users in rural parts of the country.

The Express Wi-Fi project, which Facebook started testing in the country in 2015, and part of its connectivity initiatives under internet.org, will be available through nearly 700 hotspots currently in Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Meghalaya.

The project is not like the earlier planned Free Basics that promised access to selected websites for free. The Express Wi-Fi is a paid model where the Wi-Fi hotspots are made available through partner telecom operators.

Facebook has on boarded Bharti Airtel as a partner for deploying Wi-Fi hotspots over the next few months and customers can buy daily, weekly or monthly data packs being sold through local entrepreneurs. The other internet service providers (ISPs) involved in the project so far are AirJaldi in Uttarakhand, LMES in Rajasthan, Tikona in Gujarat and soon with Shaildhar in Meghalaya.

According to Facebook Asia Pacific Head of Connectivity Solutions Munish Seth, Express Wi-Fi is designed to complement mobile data offerings by providing a low-cost, high-bandwidth alternative for getting online and access apps, download and stream content.

“Our Express Wi-Fi partnerships empower local Indian entrepreneurs to start businesses to offer Internet access to their town or region. They also help Indians connect to the Internet easily and for an affordable rate,” he said.

Seth also stated that India’s population is about 1.3 billion people, but only 390 million are connected to the Internet. “Express Wi-Fi is part of our global initiative and we want to expand Internet connectivity to underserved locations,” he said.

The company previously launched the service commercially in Kenya and it’s also trialing it in Tanzania, Nigeria and Indonesia. According to Facebook’s product manager for Express Wi-Fi James Beldock, the idea behind this project is always to create an entrepreneurial grassroots base for the service.

“Facebook launched the Free Basics programme in 2015 in partnership with Reliance Communications and allowed access to selected websites. Facebook finally pulled the plug on the controversy- ridden programme in India in February last year after Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai)  barred operators from charging discriminatory rates for Internet- access based on content.

Interestingly, Facebook continues to run the Free Basics programme across many other countries.

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