comscore Facebook is testing Express Wi-Fi service to push affordable Internet to rural India, ties up with BSNL
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Facebook is testing Express Wi-Fi service to push affordable Internet to rural India, ties up with BSNL

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After trying to connect the unconnected with Free Basics (formerly Internet.org), which didn t go quite well with the experts and activists, Facebook is now geared up to become an ISP (Internet Service Provider). In a bid to offer affordable Internet to rural India, the social media giant is currently testing the Express Wi-Fi service. Also Read - Facebook Messenger introduces a new Split Payments feature: How to use it

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Facebook has partnered with BSNL by purchasing bandwidth worth Rs 10 crore for three years. Users in about 125 rural areas of the country will be able to access the Internet via Wi-Fi hotspots, with speeds around 2Mbps. These hotspots are being setup by BSNL s partner, QuadGen, Business Standard reports.

“We are currently in the early stages of testing Express Wi-Fi, which would empower a local Indian entrepreneur to purchase an inexpensive set of hardware and start a business to offer Internet access to their town or region. This program allows customers to purchase fast, reliable and affordable data packages to access the Internet via local hotspots,” Facebook India s Country Manager for Connectivity Solutions, Munish Seth told BGR India.

Ahead of Mark Zuckerberg s India visit last year, the social media giant had started with a pilot project of Express Wi-Fi in India. It started testing the service in partnership with AirJaldi near Nepalese border. With around 30,000 people in the region, the service is accessed by around 6,000 people on a daily basis.

There are two plans, the first one costs Rs 10 per day with access to 100MB of data, whereas the other plan costs Rs 200 for a month with access to 20GB of data. It is important to point that both of these plans are way cheaper compared to other ISP offerings in India.

DON T MISS: 9 Indian startups including Zomato, Paytm write to TRAI against Facebook s Free Basics

When Facebook started Free Basics (Internet.org) in India, it partnered with RCom, giving users an access to certain websites for free. However, the initiative ran through rough weather with TRAI asking RCom to stop Free Basics until further approval.

Currently, TRAI is also framing its policy for differential pricing of data services to device the future of zero-rated and Free Basics platform. The whole thing came crashing down with experts, activists and educational institutions going against Free Basics, saying that it violates the basic principles of net neutrality.

Recently, Facebook initiated an aggressive marketing campaign by spending approximately Rs 300 crore on Free Basics ads in India. It also prompted users to send email to TRAI in support of Free Basics. Out of the total 2.4 million comments that TRAI received on consultation paper for differential pricing, around 1.9 million came from Facebook users. TRAI is also expected to come up with its recommendations by the end of this month.

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  • Published Date: January 18, 2016 5:58 PM IST



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