The Facebook, taking a big initiative to expand internet connectivity has rolled out its ‘Express Wi-Fi’ service in India and it will now offer Internet facility through public hotspots to users in rural parts of the country.
This comes a year after Facebook’s launch of controversial ‘Free Basics’ program that drew wide criticism from advocates of net neutrality.
The Express Wi-Fi is different from Free Basics and will provide access to all the websites and will work on a “paid” model. Facebook has partnered with telecom major Bharti Airtel, which will deploy over 20,000 Wi-Fi hotspots over the next few months.
“India’s population is about 1.3 billion people, but only 390 million are connected to the Internet. Express Wi-Fi is part of our global initiative and we want to expand Internet connectivity to underserved locations,” PTI quoted Facebook Asia Pacific Head of Connectivity Solutions, Munish Seth as saying.
Internet user base in the country has peaked in the last few years, especially after Reliance Jio’s entry into the potential telecome industry.
Technology giant Google has also rolled out free Internet services through public wi-fi hotspots at various railway stations in partnership with RailTel.
Facebook had started testing Express Wi-Fi in India in 2015 and its Express Wi-Fi service is available through nearly 700 hotspots across the four Indian states of Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Meghalaya.
The Internet Service Providers are AirJaldi in Uttarakhand, LMES in Rajasthan, Tikona in Gujarat, and roll out in Meghalaya is being carried out by a company called Shaildhar.
(With inputs from PTI)