Facebook, BSNL Partner To Setup 100 Wi-FI Hotspots in Rural India
The Indian telecom operators, the service providers and even the ecommerce companies want rural India to come online – the reason is simple – they all want to have pool of hundreds of millions of new users to fuel their next phase of growth. Biggies like Facebook are especially targeting these users, because their growth has now either slowed down or completely saturated.
While Internet.org (now rechristened Free Basics) is facing major backlash across the country from Net Neutrality advocates, they are now looking at pushing Internet penetration in the country by setting up WiFi hotspots in the hinterland of India.
So, world’s largest social networking site Facebook, along with state run telecom operator BSNL have come together to setup 100 WiFi hotspots providing internet to rural Indians. According to ET, Facebook will invest Rs 5 crore per year on this joint venture – the monies will be used to buy bandwidth from BSNL.
Quad Zen and Trimax will be the two companies who provide IT infrastructure equipment and Fibre Optic deployment. Also, Qaud Zen will be responsible for sales and marketing initiatives for the south-west region while Trimax will do that same for the northern region.
The project will be rolled out in 100 villages that Facebook has selected by 31st December 2015. First half hour of internet will be free and then it will charged. Each Hotspot will have a capacity of 2000 connections at any given point of time.
Concerns on Net Neutrality?
When Facebook becomes part of such a project, there are obviously going to be net neutrality concerns. Given that Free Basics (or internet.org) has met with stiff resistance, this could be one of the ways in which they could push websites on Free Basics network, especially during the free half hour access. It’s great if that is not the case, however, in that case we do not see how Facebook will benefit from it.
Other Public Wi Fi Initiative
– Earlier in April, BSNL had announced that they will be investing Rs 7000 crore to set up over 2500 3G and 4G WiFi hot spots across every nook and corner in the country.
– Delhi Government has also announced that by 2017, New Delhi will get 100% WiFi coverage. Also, by February next year, around 700-1000 new WiFi spots would be set-up which will cover all DTC (Delhi Transport Corporation) buses, busy roads and important economic hubs of the city. CP, Karol Bagh and Khan Market are some of the places where these Hotspots are already operational.
– Indian Railways and Google have joined forces to create India’s largest network of free WiFi across 400 railway stations, pan India.
– Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon (MCG) has awarded Airtel with the contract to setup free WiFi service in the Millennium City.
– Last year, Reliance Jio had announced that it will be offering free WiFi Hotspots in Gujarat, which is powered by 4G Internet speed.
– Bihar Government opened up world’s largest Free WiFi Zone last year in Patna, Bihar.
– Bangalore, last year, became the first city in India to have free Wi-Fi zones. Named “Namma WiFi”, free Wi-Fi is available at MG Road, Brigade Road, CMH Road, and around the bus stations of Yeshwantpur, Koramangala and Shanthinagar.