FB Express WiFi to deploy 20k hotspots through Airtel, more tie-ups in pipeline


MUMBAI: Times are a changing. The cable guy no longer carries optical fibre for satellite TV to the consumer's house. Entrepreneurs will now establish WiFi hotspots through Facebook to provide internet in public places. Google has already rolled out free Net access through public Wi-Fi at 100 railway stations, in partnership with government's RailTel. 

India has a population of around about 1.3 billion people, but according to TRAI report, only 390 million are connected to the internet.

Facebook's Express WiFi is a sequel to the Free Basics platform, which has partnered with entrepreneurs to help them establish public WiFi hotspots. Facebook has partnered with Airtel to deploy 20,000 internet hotspots through the Wi-Fi service in a few months. However, unlike Free Basics, Express Wi-Fi works on a ?paid? model. 

FB head of connectivity solutions - Asia Pacific Munish Seth said that it was working with ISP and operator partners to test Express WiFi with public WiFi deployments. 

Indians would now be able to purchase reliable, fast and affordable data packs in four states (Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Meghalaya). Express WiFi is being deployed in partnership with ISPs -- LMES in Rajasthan, AirJaldi in Uttarakhand, Tikona in Gujarat, and with Shaildhar in Meghalaya shortly. Express Wi-Fi is operational in four countries excluding India, that is, Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria and Indonesia. 

Airtel COO (India & South Asia) Ajai Puri said that the initiative would provide affordable access to high speed data to the underserved segment thus contributing to the Government's Digital India vision.

While Facebook did not elaborate, it plans to have similar tie-ups with other telcos, including Vodafone and Reliance Jio. It is in talks with state governments and government-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam, to establish similar hotspots.

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