Updated: May 5, 2017 10:42:28 am
Facebook has announced the commercial rollout of its Express Wi-fi project, which promises “fast, reliable and affordable” Internet to those who are not connected, with Airtel coming in as the fifth partner offering over 20,000 hotspots across the country. Munish Seth, Head of Connectivity Solutions, Facebook Asia Pacific, said the project which has been in a pilot mode since 2015 has three Internet service provider partners who offer 700 hotspots across Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Meghalaya through 500 local entrepreneurs. Express Wi-Fi is currently live in Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and Indonesia as well.
Seth said the learning so far has been to ensure that this is a self-sustainable model for everyone. “The services are priced by the Internet service providers, who will also recruit the entrepreneurs. Facebook, on the other hand, provide the software and network architecture along with analytics.”
Seth said the model will not be subsidized in any way, and will be rolled out primarily in market and community areas. He added Facebook’s mission was to take the internet to whoever is not connected, and there would be no differentiation when it comes to urban or rural areas.
Ajai Puri, Chief Operating Officer (India & South Asia), Bharti Airtel said the company was delighted to be a part of this initiative to provide affordable access to high-speed data to users across India, particularly in the underserved segment. The Airtel rollout will take a few months.
Express Wi-Fi, designed to complement mobile data offerings by providing a low-cost, high-bandwidth alternative for getting online, will offer a minimum speed of 10 Mbps. Seth said users will register on the network, complete KYC before being prompted to the nearest retailer who will offer a package based on time and GB. There will be daily, weekly and monthly packs on offer.
At the moment Express Wi-Fi is deployed in partnership with ISPs AirJaldi in Uttarakhand, LMES in Rajasthan, Tikona in Gujarat and is being rolled out with Shaildhar in Meghalaya. Airtel will be the fifth partner, while Facebook is already in talks with others.
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