After shutting down the Free Basics service a year ago, Facebook has launched its commercial WiFi service, called WiFi Express, in India. The company will make the service available in 700 Indian villages across four states initially — Uttarakhand, Meghalaya, Gujarat, and Rajasthan.
Bharti Airtel has partnered with Facebook to deploy almost 20,000 hotspots for the purpose. Facebook has also partnered with Internet Service Providers such as Tikona, Shaildhar, AirJaldi, LMES in different states.
Customers can buy daily packages worth ₹10 to ₹20, or monthly packages ranging from ₹200 to ₹300 from local sellers who have tied up with Facebook. The company has been testing the program since 2015 in India and wanted to launch it expeditiously after Free Basics had to be discontinued.
"We are not looking at making any revenue from this initiative. Our mission is to serve the underserved and unconnected and by charging users for the service, we are ensuring that it is a sustainable effort at an extremely affordable cost for the consumers," Munish Seth, Head of Connectivity Solutions, Facebook Asia Pacific, told Hindu Business Line.
"We are delighted to be a part of this initiative to provide affordable access to high speed data to users across India, particularly in the underserved segment," Ajai Puri, Chief Operating Officer (India & South Asia), Bharti Airtel said in a statement. "We believe this will help in empowering millions of Indians by bringing them online and contribute to the Government's Digital India vision."
In a successful and lauded initiative, Google has been providing free WiFi access in the railway stations across India in partnership with Airtel.