Facebook rolls out 'Express Wi-Fi' in India, partners Airtel
Social networking giant Facebook has rolled out in India, its 'Express Wi-Fi' service that offers Internet facility through public hotspots to users in rural parts of the country.
The commercial roll out of the project comes a year after Facebook pulled the plug on the controversial 'Free Basics' programme that drew severe criticism from advocates of net neutrality.
Unlike Free Basics that provided access to selected websites for free, Express Wi-Fi works on a "paid" model and the access will not be restricted to any particular websites.
Users can log onto public wi-fi hotspots made available through partner telecom operators and buy daily, weekly or monthly data packs being sold through local entrepreneurs.
Facebook has also onboarded as a partner, telecom giant Bharti Airtel, which will deploy over 20,000 wi-fi hotspots over the next few months.
"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," Facebook Asia Pacific Head of Connectivity Solutions Munish Seth told PTI.
He added that Facebook is working with internet services providers (ISPs) and over 500 local entrepreneur retailers. Internet user base in the country has seen a significant jump in the last few years, helped by smartphones becoming more affordable and data prices falling, especially after Reliance Jio rolled out services.