Facebook is going all guns blazing in the attempts of increasing its fanbase as they announced the launch of Express WiFi as another initiative of Internet.org. Facebook claims that this will help provide “millions” of Indians access to the entire web at an “affordable” fee, and has started the service commercially in four Indian states of Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Meghalaya installing 700 hotspots.
Express WiFi program has also been extended to four other countries: Kenya, Nigeria, Indonesia, and Tanzania. Munish Seth, the regional head of Facebook’s connectivity solutions in APAC region commented how their company is working with local businessmen and ISPs to provide data access via Express WiFi program.
Facebook has also announced its partnership with Airtel, which is India’s largest telecom operator, where they will launch an additional 20,000 hotspots. The company has also teamed up with other local ISPs like AirJaldi in Uttarakhand, LMES in Rajasthan, and Tikona in Gujarat.
Facebook has released a voucher payment system that will sell data priced from Rs 10 to 20 (15 to 30 cents) per day to Rs 200 to Rs 300 (~$2 to 3) for a month. Internet vouchers will be available through online and offline stores.
“Express Wi-Fi is designed to complement mobile data offerings by providing a low-cost, high bandwidth alternative for getting online and access apps, download and stream content,” wrote Seth in a blog post.
It seems as though Facebook is playing its cards right since India is the fastest growing market for the social media platform. Last month’s reports suggest that Facebook had over 184 million monthly active users in the country, and almost 50 percent of them return to the site every day. Facebook’s associate company, WhatsApp, also has over 200 million monthly active users in India.
“Our Express Wi-Fi partnerships empower local Indian entrepreneurs to start businesses to offer internet access to their town or region. They also help Indians connect to the internet easily and for an affordable rate.” Seth added.
Facebook tried to gain ground last year as well with its “Free Basics” program that allowed access to almost two dozen websites, but nothing beyond that. The Indian government had to ban Free Basics on the grounds of net neutrality after huge furor by the civil society, but now it seems as though Facebook has finally struck gold.