Facebook Plans Commercial Wi-Fi Launch in Rural India
Facebook tried to implement Free Basics in India. After a violent opposition from Indians on grounds of Net Neutrality violation, Facebook had to wind up its plans for the same. However, the social networking giant is back again. This time, it has a whole new story under its belt.
This time it is commercial rural Wi-Fi, which the company has named as Express WiFi. According to claims of Facebook, this service will provide affordable internet access to Indians through hotspots setup at different locations throughout the country.
As of now the social media giant is engaged in talks with various ISPs (Internet Service Providers) in India so that it can expand the reach of Express WiFi. Facebook had already teamed up with BSNL – state owned telecom company – and completed a pilot run. The pilot testing involved 125 such hotspots and is reported to be very successful.
Express WiFi is not free!
Indians have this nasty habit of running for anything that is free. Since Facebook named it Free Basics, people were simply fooled! Now people may think that Express WiFi is free to. But is it? Not really! Express WiFi is a commercial service and hence, not at all free. However, Facebook says that this service will provide affordable, reliable and fast WiFi through local hotspots. Remember the catch word – affordable. It is not free but it is affordable.
Some experts think that Facebook’s Express WiFi will help with Modi’s Digital India Initiative by sending fast internet connection to the rural parts of the country. Yes! Facebooks wants to get into rural India via Indian ISPs. Of course, the social media giant needs to rely on Indian ISPs but the company has not yet announced the names of the ISPs it plans to work with. The company is also eyeing for local entrepreneurs who will come up with acceptable business models of this Express WiFi service.
Customised Software from Facebook
According to Facebook’s Indian spokesman, Facebook is currently testing the program in India. The aim of the program is to allow Indians to purchase affordable data that is reliable and fast. This will be achieved via local ISPs and hotspots. According to the spokesperson, Facebook is targeting rural India and in order to provide 24×7 internet access, Facebook needs to overcome the problem of patchy network coverage that currently plagues the rural parts of India. In order to overcome this problem, Facebook has developed customized software targeting rural markets. This will allow local entrepreneurs and ISPs to run business in small areas without connectivity glitches.
According to the spokesperson, Facebook is in the process of developing the ecosystem of connectivity in India and hence, investing in the same. The social media giant is extending both technological and commercial assistance to both local entrepreneurs and ISPs at the same time.
Is There a Hidden catch?
Some may say that Facebook has some ill intentions considering that Facebook actually wanted to control the internet access in India through Free Basics and its discriminatory pricing policy. But what about Express WiFi? There is there something hidden in the agenda. May it. However, it is too soon to comment on anything. Unless the program goes live in several areas, the true intentions of Facebook cannot be gauged properly.
The question is, ‘will Facebook succeed?’ This is something Facebook has to worry about. State and local governments have now started offering free WiFi in urban areas. They will very likely give free internet access to rural parts too. On the other hand, Express WiFi is not free. People have to purchase data plans. This may cause a setback for Facebook because Indians do love free stuff. The only counter question that comes to our mind is, will governments provide reliable free internet in rural India as promised by Express WiFi? If yes, Facebook might have to wrap up their business.
So, what do you think? Is Express WiFi something as devilish as Free Basics? Do you think Facebook will once again take the heat? Do you think Facebook has some nasty plans behind its claimed ‘connectivity-ecosystem development’ campaign in India? Let us known your thoughts through the comments section.