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Facebook Planning Commercial Launch of Rural Wi-Fi In India

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BSNL To Connect 1 Lakh Panchayats with High Speed WiFi in a year

After the failure of Free Basics due to violation of Net Neutrality, Facebook is now ready to offer affordable internet to the masses by setting up Wi-Fi hotspots across the country.

The social networking giant is in talks with various ISPs (Internet Service Providers) for expanding its Express WiFi programme for its commercial launch in India. Facebook has already completed the pilot-run of Express WiFi with 125 hotspots in partnership with the state-run telco, BSNL.

Express WiFi Program Is Not Free

Before you get all excited about using yet another free WiFi service, I would like to mention that Facebook’s Express WiFi programme aims to offer fast, reliable, and affordable data wirelessly via local hotspots. If successful, it will take fast internet to rural India and thus would aid the government’s Digital India initiative.

Facebook wants to take this Express WiFi service to the rural areas in the country by partnering up with ISPs. Facebook has yet not revealed the name of its ISP partners and is also relying on the local entrepreneurs for coming up with a scalable business model for this WiFi service.

“We are testing Express WiFi program in India that allows customers to purchase fast, reliable and affordable data packages from their local ISP to access the Internet via local hotspots, said a Facebook India spokesman.

Facebook has developed a customised software for the rural markets for helping the ISPs and entrepreneurs run their business within a small area. This will help overcome patchy network coverage in rural India and allow people to stay connected 24×7.

“Facebook is investing in the development of the connectivity ecosystem by providing techno-commercial assistance to local ISP partners and entrepreneurs,” a source said.

It is worth noting that Free Basics was opposed in India due to its discriminatory pricing for various services. The Express WiFi Programme, offering fast and reliable internet at competitive prices seems like a good bet.

On the other hand, Google & Indian Railways have started offering free WiFi internet at major Railway Stations in India under Project Nilgiri. As of July 2016, over 2 million Indians have enjoyed this free Google WiFi service across 19 railway stations. Please note that this project aims to provide free WiFi service at 400 railways stations across the country.

It certainly won’t be easy for Facebook’s Express WiFi service as the local governments have now started offering free WiFi at major locations in urban India and the next logical step would be to cover the rural areas.

Would Facebook’s Express WiFi service attract public criticism like ‘Free Basics’, or would it be admired by the masses? Stay tuned on Trak.in for more updates.

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