Social networking colossus Facebook has announced that it will commercially deploy its ‘Express Wi-Fi’ service, which is just one of its many connectivity initiatives under its internet.org umbrella. In addition to this, Facebook also announced a partnership with Indian telecommunications leader Bharti Airtel, and disclosed that it plans to create an additional 20,000 hotspots online.
The project is expected to commence in the next few months and the fundamental purpose of Facebook’s ‘Express Wi-Fi’ is to allow local entrepreneurs to use existing Wi-Fi technologies to resell internet access. The social media company is currently working with a number of local ISPs and 500 Indian-based entrepreneurs, although that figure is expected to grow considerably.
The other ISPs involved in the project with Facebook and Bharti Airtel are AirJaldi in Uttarakhand, LMES in Rajasthan, Tikona in Gujarat, and a project with Shaildhar in Meghalaya is also in the pipeline. Facebook has launched its connectivity express solutions in a commercial capacity in Kenya, whilst it’s also trialing its technologies in Tanzania, Nigeria and Indonesia.
Facebook’s product manager for Express Wi-Fi, James Beldock, declared that the idea at the core of the project was to create an entrepreneurial grassroots base for the service, which will ultimately allow Airtel and its ISP partners to continue this work with entrepreneurs who want to resell internet access to their own respective communities. He said, “Our strategy has always been that these programs work if they are financially sustainable for the partners we work with. Facebook’s strategy is to enable partners to make connectivity at scale sustainable, not to dictate pricing.”
Primarily the service Facebook’s ‘Express Wi-Fi’ offers is that it offers a cheaper way for users to get online with daily, weekly or monthly data packs) and the partnership with local entrepreneurs could help the local economy. However, Beldock expressed that the difficulties expanding the services in other countries isn’t from a technical standpoint, instead he suggests understanding the local market and needs. Analysts have noted that we should expect to see more commercial launches of Facebook’s ‘Express Wi-Fi’ where it is already testing the service, despite the reservations made by Beldock over market concerns and unfamiliarity.