Facebook rolls out 'Express Wi-Fi' in India

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In the pilot phase, Facebook had begun testing the Express Wi-Fi services in Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Meghalaya via the 700 hotspots that have been opened up for commercial use. Today, the Press Trust of India reported that the social network will now use Bharti Airtel's network to enable 20,000 Wi-Fi hotspots all over the country.

The company has also joined hands with local ISPs like AirJaldi in Uttarakhand, LMES in Rajasthan, and Tikona in Gujarat.

India isn't the first country where Facebook has rolled out Express Wi-Fi: it's previously launched the service in Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and Indonesia.

As mentioned on the Facebook Internet.org webpage, Express Wi-Fi Project aims to empower local entrepreneurs to help provide quality internet access to their neighbors and make a steady income.

"Express Wifi empowers local operators, ISPs and entrepreneurs to offer a fast, reliable and affordable internet service", explained Facebook head of connectivity solutions Munish Seth in a social media post.

Before you start having flashbacks to the last time Facebook tried to get Indians online, you should know that Express Wi-Fi works on a paid basis. "They also help Indians connect to the internet easily and for an affordable rate".

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It finally pulled the plug on the programme in February a year ago in this country, after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) barred operators from charging discriminatory rates for net access based on content.

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

Facebook's goal is to grow the number of Express Wi-Fi hotspots in India rapidly. As of April, for which latest data is available, the company had 184 million active users in the country, and about 50% of them check the website daily.

So after the Facebook Free Basics fiasco, the company back in November was revealed to be working on something new and open called Facebook Express Wi-Fi.

Free Basics by Facebook was meant to provide free internet to the same "underserved locations", however, the internet was anything but "free". In December past year, Google announced its free WiFi project at the 100 busiest railway stations in India. They will not take an involvement in the charges of the ISP or telecom operators.

Reconfirming the very objective of Express WiFi, Seth said, "A major part of the world is not connected (to the internet) due to lack of infrastructure, lack of awareness and affordability".

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