Facebook starts testing for Express Wi-Fi hotspots in rural India


Facebook is testing WiFi hotspots across rural India to give free internet access, the social networking giant, Facebook, has said, revealing plans to take the venture to other nations as well.

The new investigations comes months after India’s telecom regulator blocked Free Basics, a controversial Facebook service that it said would convey free access to a limited version of the social network and other sites to the poor.

The ruling was seen as a setback for Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, who is excited to expand on the network’s 160 million users, the second biggest in the world.

“We are working with carriers, internet service providers and local entrepreneurs to help expand connectivity to ‘underserved’ locations around the world. We’re live in India, and are expanding to other regions soon,” the organization said on its website.

Google and Facebook are pursuing the next billion internet users — a third of which are expected to come from India — to generate more advertising revenue. Almost 65% of India is yet to use the internet.

Google has been providing free WiFi in partnership with an Indian Railways subsidiary, RailTel, and plans to offer internet connectivity in 400 railway stations by 2018. The Google programme is as of now dynamic at 53 stations. Facebook, is also talking to RailTel for similar services.

However, the new pilot project, Express Wifi, may not be free. The organization will charge a little sum for the access. But most of these hotspots will be in small towns and eventually expand in villages, from where the majority of the new users are expected to come.

Facebook did not share any details on the number of hotspots that it plans to open.

Sources said Facebook will share setup costs, give technology and maybe also share operation costs.

“Currently, we are working with ISP and operator partners to test Express Wi-Fi with public Wi-Fi deployments in multiple pilot sites,” a Facebook representative said. Express Wi-Fi customers can purchase fast, reliable and affordable data packs, he said. The plan is relied upon to be available for public soon, he said, adding Facebook would not take payments directly.

Google additionally plans to extend Google Station to cafes, shopping centers, universities and bus stations – a programme to offer high-speed browsing at any place that has a wired internet connection. However, it may not be a free service, with revenue being split between Google and the space owner.

The company is testing its Project Loon that will utilize balloons to take internet access to remote locations. It is also learnt to be looking at putting Google Accelerator boxes in cafes and restaurants.

The search engine internet giant also has a Wifi plan called Google Fi, which Facebook claims is different from its Express WiFi. A Fi user pays Google directly and accesses the internet riding Google’s partnerships with ISPs, public Wifi and network operators.

Redmond-based Microsoft is trailing along also. The organization is likewise taking a shot at TV White Spaces innovation which gives the organization a chance to communicate web signals at unused low-recurrence range groups. The organization guarantees that since the recurrence is low, the signs can be transmitted over bigger territories cutting down the cost of laying optical fiber.

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Sameeksha Bhardwaj, From ITvoir News Desk