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Facebook to launch Express Wi-Fi in India

Facebook set to launch express wi-fi facility to india , provide internet in public places ending India’s poor connectivity problem.Called . which is a follow up of the banned Free Basics platform, ties up with entrepreneurs to help them set up public WiFi hotspots and helping them provide internet to a lot of citizens in poor or no connectivity areas .

 

“We were working with ISP and operator partners to test Express WiFi with public WiFi deployments in multiple pilot sites,” Munish Seth, head of connectivity solutions at Facebook’s Asia Pacific region, told HT, adding that now customers will be able to purchase fast, reliable and affordable data packs in four states (Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Meghalaya) across 700 hotspots and 500 retailers. Express WiFi has been deployed in partnership with ISPs AirJaldi in Uttarakhand, LMES in Rajasthan, Tikona in Gujarat, and soon with Shaildhar in Meghalaya.

 

He also said that Facebook was working with Airtel to bring 20,000 more hotspots throughout the country. Express WiFi is currently live in Indonesia, Tanzania, Kenya and Nigeria.

Explaining how Express WiFi works, Seth said that Facebook is providing the software stack for the entrepreneurs, data analytics and in some cases some funds to help start operations. However, he said that the entrepreneur can choose any internet service provider (ISP) for bringing the WiFi to the hotspot.

 

“We will recommend ISPs based on our tests and usually the speed of the Wi-Fi has to be somewhat around 10mbps,” Seth said, adding, that if someone wants to use the WiFi, the person will buy a data card just like prepaid vouchers and use it on their devices.

 

“Anyone can access the Express WiFi network by signing up with an Express WiFi retailer and purchasing a daily, weekly or monthly data pack at a rate set by our partners. They will then be able to connect to the Express WiFi hotspot, register/create an account, login and start browsing or use any app on the entire internet,” Seth explained.

 

Currently, as per TRAI data only 390 million people are connected to the internet. However, Express WiFi launch comes 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.

 

TRAI had struck down Facebook’s previous programme – Free Basics in India – that aimed to connect the “unconnected Indians” on the grounds of net neutrality. Net neutrality regulation ensures that all ISPs charge customers the same price for accessing all websites and services.

This also doesn’t mean Facebook is flouting net neutrality norms as Jio also offers data at lower prices than rivals.

 

Google and Microsoft also have been working on similar connectivity project. Google is already providing a free WiFi service in several railway stations in India in partnership with RailTel and the programme is expected to be scaled to 400 stations in the country.

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