World’s largest social network: Facebook and India’s largest telecom provider Airtel joined forces to deploy 20,000 WiFi hotspots across India. Under Facebook’s Express WiFi scheme, this is India’s largest such partnership, which can bring accessibility to thousands of new Internet users, in India.
As of now, Facebook has been able to deploy around 700 WiFi hotspots under their Express WiFi program, which have been made under smaller partnerships. In Uttarakhand, Facebook has teamed up with AirJaldi, while they have partnered with LMES in Rajasthan, Tikona in Gujarat, and Shaildhar in Meghalaya.
But this recent partnership with Airtel is important, because it will over the whole of India, and establish 20,000 hotspots in one single go.
Munish Seth, regional head APAC, Facebook Connectivity Solutions has confirmed these developments, as he said, “Airtel is already in the planning stage for this deployment,”.
Reconfirming the very objective of Express WiFi, Seth said, “A major part of the world is not connected (to the internet) due to lack of infrastructure, lack of awareness and affordability. These are problems we need to address,”
Ajai Puri, chief operating officer (India & South Asia) at Bharti Airtel, has said that Express WiFi will assist India by “empowering millions of Indians by bringing them online.”
WiFi Express – Platform To Expand Internet Connectivity
Facebook launched Express WiFi in 2015 to enable more connectivity and more awareness about high-speed Internet, using WiFi.
Based on a unique partnership model between entrepreneurs, ISPs, and Facebook, Express WiFi also aims to generate employment. Local entrepreneurs will sell coupons/vouchers starting from Rs 10 to Rs 100-200 and make some profits. Meanwhile, the prices of Internet connectivity will be set by the ISP, infrastructure and logistics would be provided by Facebook.
A minimum speed of 10 Mbps is assured under this scheme, and the user needs to furnish KYC details before activating the plan, bought from retailers.
Under existing 700 hotspots network, WiFi Express has already provided work and employment to around 500 entrepreneurs in Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Meghalaya.
Interestingly, Facebook and Airtel has already partnered for setting up infrastructure and the backbone of Express WiFi via optical fibre in Uganda, the model of which has now been expanded to India. This scheme is right now live in Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and Indonesia, besides India.
Seth said, “We have grown the business to become sustainable in India, and believe the technology can be homogenised. We have now moved away from the beta stage and are into rapidly expanding the footprint.”
The only question is, whether Express WiFi breaks net neutrality principles?
We will keep you updated, as we receive more information.