Facebook’s taking a second knock at trying to provide internet connectivity in India through a brand new initiative dubbed Express Wifi. Unlike the much-maligned Free Basics, this new project is being promoted as a way for people to get easier access to data without any caveats on which sites they are allowed to visit for free.
Talk about Express Wifi first came about back in January this year when it was reported that Facebook had tied up with BSNL to set up Wi-Fi hotspots across India. The latter’s CMD Anupam Shrivastava said that the latter had bought Rs 10 crore worth of bandwidth to cover 125 rural areas for over 3 years.
These bands are supposedly in the 2.4GHz spectrum and supply speeds of up to 2Mbps. Facebook has now confirmed that Express Wifi is live in India and tests are being carried out with multiple local ISP partners. The basic push behind the idea is to work in partnership with carriers, small-scale entrepreneurs, and internet service providers to deliver low-cost internet connectivity in underserved locations.
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The actual cost of accessing Wi-Fi under Express Wifi hasn’t been specified, though an earlier report had pointed to figures as low as Rs 10. It’ll be facing serious competition from Google’s own free Wi-Fi service which came out in January this year. The latter has apparently managed to connect more than 1.5 million Indians across 19 railway stations since its launch.
Express WiFi is one of many Facebook initiatives such as solar-powered laser drones and OpenCellular to help connect rural consumers to the World Wide Web. More people accessing the internet translates to more users for the social network, which is probably its ultimate goal at the end of day.