Tuesday, 23 May, 2017

Facebook offers India cheap WiFi via 20000 hotspots

Facebook Munish Seth,Head of Connectivity Solutions Facebook Asia Pacific
Lucas Bell | 06 May, 2017, 02:42

It is now working with internet services providers (ISPs) and over 500 local entrepreneur retailers in four Indian states of Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Meghalaya to commercially offer Express WiFi service through 700 hotspots. Facebook has also partnered with Internet Service Providers such as Tikona, Shaildhar, AirJaldi, LMES in different states. They are also available in other developing countries, including Kenya, Indonesia, Nigeria and Tanzania. It's unclear exactly how much its costs to use Express Wi-Fi, and Facebook's release says rates will be set by its partners.

Once you've picked a suitable data plan, you can simply connect to the Express Wi-Fi hotspot and create your account to gain access to internet connectivity.

These Express Wi-Fi partnership will empower the local Indian entrepreneurs. According to Munish Seth, regional head for Facebook Connectivity Solutions in APAC, they made a decision to partner with Bhati Airtel to expand the Express WiFi footprint in India and that things are already in the planning stages.

The idea is to offer internet services through public hotspots in rural parts in partnership with telcos.

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Facebook, through its Internet.org initiative, has launched its low-priced Express Wi-Fi service in India. But the Express Wi-Fi will work on a paid model, and they will not limit the access to certain websites.

However, regulators and Internet activists were concerned about the fairness of Facebook and its partners essentially acting as Internet gatekeepers by determining which websites could be accessed. The company has been testing the program since 2015 in India and wanted to launch it expeditiously after Free Basics had to be discontinued. You can call it as a different version of the criticised "Free Basics" program of previous year.

Internet user base in the country had significantly increased in the last few years, helped by smartphones becoming more affordable and data prices falling, especially after the roll out of Reliance Jio's services. It is trying to provide WiFi service using 700 hotspots. However, Express WiFi launch comes at a day after TRAI chairman RS Sharma said that the regulator will come out with its recommendations on net neutrality by the first half of July. Asked about the role Facebook will play in the programme, he said the company will just provide the platform and solutions. Google also offers free Wi-Fi at many railway stations across India. From our preliminary research, we could indeed find no flaws, and certainly no reasons to charge Facebook with anything on this one. We've helped connect more than 50 million people to the internet through programs like this, and we're looking forward to hearing more stories like his.

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