Facebook ties up with Airtel for 20,000 wi-fi hotspots

Facebook has also onboarded as a partner, telecom giant Bharti Airtel, which will deploy over 20,000 wi-fi hotspots over the next few months.

Facebook has tied up with Bharti Airtel to deploy 20,000 Wi-Fi hotspots across the country to offer affordable internet services through the social networking major’s Express Wi-Fi service over the next few months.

“Airtel is already in the planning stage for this deployment,” said Munish Seth, regional head APAC, Facebook Connectivity Solutions.

“A major part of the world is not connected (to the internet) due to lack of infrastructure, lack of awareness and affordability. These are problems we need to address,” he told ET.

Ajai Puri, chief operating officer (India & South Asia) at Bharti Airtel, in a statement on Thursday said the tieup with Facebook will help in “empowering millions of Indians by bringing them online.”

Express Wi-Fi is part of Facebook’s global initiative to spread internet connectivity. It was designed to complement mobile data offerings by providing a low-cost, high bandwidth alternative for access to online content. Seth said Facebook is working towards empowering local entrepreneurs, internet service providers, and telecom operators to offer affordable broadband service to underserved community.

ISP or telco partners decide the pricing of the service, which can be availed by customers through digital vouchers priced at Rs 10-20 for a day or Rs 200-300 for a month. Facebook also helps its partners decide prices for the service, using analytics, Seth said.

Airtel and Facebook are already working together to deploy fibre connectivity backhaul in Uganda, he said.

Facebook had begun testing Express Wi-Fi in India in 2015. It is currently working with internet services providers (ISPs) and over 500 local entrepreneur retailers in Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Meghalaya to commercially offer the service through 700 hotspots.

“We have grown the business to become sustainable in India, and believe the technology can be homogenised,” Seth said. “We have now moved away from beta stage and are into rapidly expanding the footprint.”

Express Wi-Fi has been deployed in partnership with AirJaldi in Uttarakhand, LMES in Rajasthan, Tikona in Gujarat, and Shaildhar in Meghalaya, which will go live in two weeks, Seth said. Facebook worked closely with OEMs and technology players to bring down the cost of infrastructure. “Facebook Express Wi-Fi gateway integrates with servers sitting in ISP premises and let them manage operations. It also provides business analytics on performance and traffic on site,” Seth said.

Besides India, Express Wi-Fi is live in Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and Indonesia.

Source: ET tech

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