Facebook begins selling low-priced WiFi in India

Posted May 06, 2017

Following tests that began back in 2015, Express Wi-Fi is now live across almost 700 hotspots in four Indian states of Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Meghalaya. Services in Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Meghalaya are now enabled by AirJaldi, Tikona, LMES, and Shaildhar ISPs, respectively. With the launch today, Express Wi-Fi is now live in five countries: India, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and Indonesia.

As mentioned on the Facebook Internet.org webpage, Express Wi-Fi Project aims to empower local entrepreneurs to help provide quality internet access to their neighbors and make a steady income.

Facebook launched Express WiFi in 2015 to enable more connectivity and more awareness about high-speed Internet, using WiFi. The objective of Express Wi-Fi is to complement mobile data offerings by offering a low-priced and high bandwidth alternative to get the online and access apps, stream contents and download. The Express Wi-Fi partnerships empower local Indian entrepreneurs to start businesses to offer internet access to their town or region.

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India has a population of around 1.3 billion, but according to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI's) report only 390 million people use internet services and that's the number after Jio effect. The Express Wi-Fi is a paid model where the Wi-Fi hotspots are made available through partner telecom operators.

While Airtel has its own network offering 3G and 4G services, Express Wi-Fi enables Airtel to offer internet connectivity to consumers who can not afford 3G or 4G handsets and are looking for more affordable data plans than now offered by various telcos. The internet access will bring people to online and helps them to contribute something to the Government's Digital Indian Vision. The service offers Internet facility through 20,000 public hotspots to users in rural parts of the country.

Free Basics by Facebook was meant to provide free internet to the same "underserved locations", however, the internet was anything but "free".

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Express WiFi tries to right the many wrongs of Free Basics. Apart from that RailTel also offered free Wi-Fi at different railway stations through public hotspots. Seth says he believes the Indian market is big enough for all companies to cater for consumers.

This initiative is a follow-up to the previous disaster known as 'Free Basics.' Instead of offering a handful of services for free to most users - who'll onboard the platform, the social media giant is now providing them affordable internet services.

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