Facebook has partnered with Airtel to deploy 20,000 hotspots across the 700 villages.

Facebook rolls out Express WiFi across 700 villages in India
Atom Internet Friday, May 05, 2017 - 10:06

Facebook on Thursday launched Express WiFi service that offers Internet facility through public hotspots to users in rural parts of India.

The social network has partnered with telecom operator Bharti Airtel that plans to bring an additional 20,000 hotspots online, starting in the next few months, TechCrunch reported.

The launch comes a year after Facebook put an end to the controversial "Free Basics" programme that drew severe criticism from advocates of net neutrality.

As per a report in the Hindustan Times, this program which seems to be a follow up of the banned Free Basics platform, ties up with entrepreneurs and helps them set up public WiFi hotspots. The idea is to help them provide internet to a lot of citizens in poor or no connectivity areas – the ‘intent’ behind Free Basics platform.

Facebook is currently working with a number of local ISPs and 500 local entrepreneurs.

"Our strategy has always been that these programmes work if they are financially sustainable for the partners we work with," the report quoted James Beldock, the company's product manager, as saying.

Speaking to HT, Munish Seth, head of connectivity solutions at Facebook’s Asia Pacific region said, “We were working with ISP and operator partners to test Express WiFi with public WiFi deployments in multiple pilot sites,”

Seth also told HT that customers will be able to purchase fast, reliable and affordable data packs in Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Meghalaya across 700 hotspots and 500 retailers. This service has been deployed in partnership with Tikona in Gujarat, ISPs AirJaldi in Uttarakhand, , LMES in Rajasthan and will soon be deployed with Shaildhar in Meghalaya.

Facebook has launched the service commercially in Kenya earlier.

"WiFi, of course, is a far easier onramp to the Internet than most other means of getting online," Beldock stressed.

Explaining how this will work, Seth says that anyone can access the express WiFi network by signing up with an Express WiFi retailer. He then has to purchase a daily, weekly or monthly pack at a rate set by partners. Once registered, users can access any app.

With inputs from IANS

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