Facebook taking another go at connecting India, testing cheap Express Wi-Fi service – CNET
Despite Facebook’s Free Basics programearlier this year, the social media juggernaut isn’t giving up on connecting the world’s second most populous nation.
Facebook on Monday said it’s in early stages of testing Express Wi-Fi, its new initiative to provide Indians with “fast, reliable, and affordable” data. It’ll see local telcos provide internet access via local hotspots throughout rural India.
The company may have already made a lot of progress. As part of its testing, Facebook has “completed” the rollout of Express Wi-Fi in 125 rural areas in the country, the Economic Times reports. The publication adds that Facebook is in talks with local ISPs for a commercial launch of the new initiative.
Facebook was contacted but declined to comment.
This is the social media giant’s second attempt at connecting more Indians to the internet. Unlike Free Basics, an initiative still running in many countries, wherein the company provides users free access to select websites and services, Express Wi-Fi isn’t free and it’s unclear whether users get unfettered access to the internet or not.
The company’s Free Basics program, under its Internet.org masthead, was given the axe in India earlier this year, with the local Telecom Regulatory Authority banning the service on the grounds of violation of net neutrality.
“I want to personally communicate that we are committed to keep working to break down barriers to connectivity in India and around the world,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said following ban on Free Basics in India. “Internet.org has many initiatives, and we will keep working until everyone has access to the internet.”
India remains an important place for Facebook, with over 142 million users in the country signing-in to the social networking website every month as of earlier this year. Roughly one billion people in the country are still offline, giving Facebook and other companies a big opportunity to increase its userbase.