Facebook on 4 May 2017 launched Express WiFi service commercially in India. The Express WiFi offers Internet facility through public hotspots to users in rural parts of India. The social network giant partnered with telecom operator Bharti Airtel that plans to bring an additional 20000 hotspots online. The company previously launched the service commercially in Kenya. The launch of the service comes a year after Facebook put an end to the controversial “Free Basics” programme that drew severe criticism from advocates of net neutrality.
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. Internet Services Providers (ISPs) 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 had begun testing Express Wi-Fi in India in 2015. It is currently working with ISPs and over 500 local entrepreneur retailers in Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Meghalaya to commercially offer the service through 700 hotspots.