Facebook Targets India With Rural Wi-Fi

Facebook is currently in talks with Internet service providers (ISPs) in order to develop its Express Wi-Fi program into a commercial release in India. The U.S. firm has already completed a pilot program of 125 rural public Wi-Fi hotspots with help from state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd.

Facebook aims to commercialize Express Wi-Fi

Facebook’s Express Wi-Fi initiative, conducted in partnership with Internet service companies and small entrepreneurs, is aimed at offering reasonable broadband service to the country’s rural areas.

“We are testing Express Wi-Fi program in India currently that allows customers to purchase fast, reliable and affordable data packages from their local ISP (internet service providers) to access the Internet via local hotspots,” a Facebook India representative said.

However, the social media giant did not disclose the names of the service suppliers it is in talks with.The tech giant has left the work of coming up with a scalable business model to its partners.

The social media giant has reportedly created customized software for rural markets to help ISPs and/or business people manage business inside their areas, thus filling the gaps in the country’s rural cellular data networks.

A person familiar with the matter told ET, “Facebook is investing in the development of the connectivity ecosystem by providing techno-commercial assistance to local ISP partners and entrepreneurs.”

After the telecom regulator prohibited discriminatory pricing of data services, including zero-rated services, Facebook’s previous initiative to connect detached citizens through its Free Basics program had to pull out of India.

India a key market for Facebook

India is a key market for Facebook’s future with 462 million, or around 33% of the populace with Internet access in June, claims IAMAI. The report by Akamai Technologies places the country at 131 out of 189 nations in terms of broadband infiltration, underlining the potential that exists there.

The Indian government is also trying to give a push to open Wi-Fi in the nation to spread moderate broadband through a consultation process. Referring to industry information, India’s telecom regulator noted that the expansion in the quantity of Wi-Fi hotspots from 2013 to 2016 had been 568%, worldwide while India has exhibited only 12% growth during the same timeframe. The regulator said 800,000 extra hotspots will have to be installed for the country to achieve an objective of one hotspot for every 150 people.

Meanwhile, Google has taken over Facebook in terms of offering free Internet to Indians. The search giant has been able to give free Internet to more than 2 million people by installing hotspots on 10 railway stations across India.

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About the Author

Aman Jain
Aman is MBA (Finance) with an experience on both Marketing and Finance side. He has worked as a Risk Analyst for AIR Worldwide, and is currently leading VeRa FinServ, a Financial Research firm. Favorite pastimes include watching science fiction movies, reviewing tech gadgets, playing PC games and cricket. - Email him at amanjain@valuewalk.com

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