Facebook is getting ready to launch its Express Wi-Fi service in India, under which it will provide data in rural areas in partnership with BSNL. The idea is to allow local businesses to offer internet access for as low as Rs 10 to customers.
BSNL CMD Anupam Shrivastava says that Facebook has bought enough bandwidth to cover 125 rural regions at the cost of Rs 10 crore for a period of 3 years. The bands are in the 2.4GHz spectrum and will provide speeds up to 2Mbps. Consumers are set to receive it via Wi-Fi hotspots which are being set up by QuadGen.
Munish Seth, Facebook India’s manager of connectivity solutions, told Business Standard that Express Wi-Fi lets local entrepreneurs buy inexpensive hardware and offer their customers reliable and affordable data packs. The social media giant has customized its software for rural areas. It’s apparently made it easier to do things like billing and sending alerts about online usage.
Seth asserts that the company is looking to join hands with domestic ISPs to expand network access and develop a connectivity ecosystem by offering financial and technical assistance. He thinks Express Wi-Fi will eventually accelerate the reach of cheap internet access and create a new base of small businesses, bringing social and economic benefits across India.
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Facebook’s end goal is to develop an economically sustainable business model in order to allow its ISP partners and entrepreneurs to earn profits in the long run. Express Wi-Fi and Free Basics both come under the brand’s Internet.org initiative which aims to bring unconnected people online. The latter has come under fire from critics for not following the tenets of net neutrality.