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Short Bytes: Under its Internet.org initiative, Facebook has previously launched Free Basics app in India and attracted tons of negative comments. Going one step further, Facebook has now earned the status of an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to provide affordable WiFi in rural India. This service will be provided under a new Internet.org initiative called Express WiFi in partnership with BSNL.

After facing adverse reactions over its Free Basics initiative, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is all set to turn his company into an Internet Service Provider (ISP) in India. The company has partnered with government-owned telecom company BSNL to set up WiFi hotspots in rural areas.

Facebook aims to provide affordable internet — internet packs as low as Rs. 10 —  to the people living in the rural areas of country. The company has purchased Rs. 10 crore worth bandwidth from BSNL for a period of 3 years, according to BSNL chairman and managing director Anupam Shrivastava. This Internet service will be provided with the help of BSNL’s partner QuadGen, which will be setting up WiFi hotspots.

This cheap WiFi service will run on an unlicensed band of 2.4GHz which will provide a speed of about 2 megabits per second. This service will be provided in 125 rural areas under a new Internet.org initiative called Express WiFi.

According to Business Standard, Facebook has made a new software to optimize the data usage and make things simpler for rural areas. To access the Internet, the local residents can purchase data packages from these local hotspots.

This news earlier broke in September 2015 when Facebook announced that it’s piloting a new service called Express WiFi that will encourage the local entrepreneurs to set up WiFi hotspots in various areas. “We help them in terms of technical solutions, business model and marketing,” said Munish Seth, Country Manager Facebook Connectivity Solutions India.

This partnership has come amidst Facebook CEO’s India visit in October. Prior to that, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the Facebook HQ in California in September.

Facebook’s first Internet.org foray in India is Free Basics, which isn’t performing so well in the country. The company tapped Reliance Communications to provide free Internet services to people that allowed them to access some basic websites. However, the program suffered a setback as Telecom Regulatory Authority of India put it on hold.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg realizes the importance of India for his company’s business. India is home to about 130 million Facebook users and a key market for Facebook. As a result, he is trying hard to connect more people to the internet — and finally to Facebook. Thus, Facebook’s launch of crowd-pleasing services like Free Basics and Express WiFi in its fastest growing market makes perfect sense.

Is Facebook really trying to connect more people to the Internet, or it’s a trick to increase its userbase? — Let us know in the comments below.

Adarsh Verma
Fossbytes co-founder and an aspiring entrepreneur who keeps a close eye on open source, tech giants, and security. Get in touch with him by sending an email — [email protected]