The social-networking giant has worked with internet service providers and over 500 local entrepreneur retailers to bring almost 700 hotspots across four states in India - Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Meghalaya. Facebook has also announced its partnership with the telecom carrier to launch an additional 20,000 hotspots.
The company previously launched the service commercially in Kenya and it's also trialing it in Tanzania, Nigeria and Indonesia.
Customers can access the services by buying a daily, weekly or monthly plans from the Express Wi-Fi retailers similar to how one would purchase recharge currency for their prepaid mobile connections. They can then connect to the Express Wi-Fi hotspot, register/create an account, login, and "start browsing or use any app on the entire internet".
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The Wi-Fi service complements the mobile data offerings from telecom providers by providing low-priced, high-speed, high-bandwidth connectivity to go online, browse the web, access apps, download and stream content, etc. The Express Wi-Fi program aims to provide hassle-free internet over Wifi taking help from local ISPs. "They also help Indians connect to the internet easily and for an affordable rate", said Munish Seth, Facebook Asia-Pacific's head of connectivity solutions.
Whether Express Wi-Fi is a violation of net neutrality regulations or not is something time will tell, but given that Facebook has a habit of playing with fire all the time, denying that possibility would be insane. Google is already providing a free WiFi service in several railway stations in India in partnership with RailTel and the programme is expected to be scaled to 400 stations in the country. The company has been running trials in various parts of the country for over a year. "These are problems we need to address", Seth said. The Express Wi-Fi offers 700 hotspots in four states across the country.
Also for both companies, it is increasingly becoming clear that success in India is crucial for their growth. India is a land of about 1.3 billion people, but the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI's) Performance Indicator Report states that there are only 390 million people are truly connected to the Internet. Network provider Airtel has come in as the fifth partner to offer more than 20,000 hotspots across India, PTI reported. However, Wi-Fi has limited range and it is hard to connect a wide area using the technology.