As if their almost 2 billion active users weren’t enough, Facebook is on a quest to get more people online. Yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg’s creation announced the launch of Express WIFI in India. As part of an initiative by Internet.org, Express WIFI will be offering millions of people access to the web. They’ll be charged “affordable” fees to get online – and onto the social network, of course.
Cynics may say that it’s just another ploy to encourage continued growth and find new users for the aging platform. But, getting people in hard-to-reach places access to the web could be a great educational tool, as well. Currently, Express WIFI is available in four Indian states, including Gujarat, Rajasthan, Meghalaya and Uttarakhand. There have been about 700 hotspots installed by the company in these areas. They are also available in other developing countries, including Kenya, Indonesia, Nigeria and Tanzania.
Express Wi-Fi program
Facebook further announced today that it has partnered with Airtel, which is India’s largest telecom provider. This will allow them to establish an extra 20,000 hotspots and gain access to more people. Other partnerships have been made with local ISPs, including LMES in Rajasthan and Uttarakhand’s AirJaldi. Facebook is certainly serious about gaining further foothold in this huge market.
The program will be affordable to people from low-income families, and Facebook’s partners will sell data vouchers in different prices. From Rs 10 for day-long access, to Rs 200-300 for a month. To give you an idea, that’s prices starting at just 15 cents. The vouchers can be purchased both on and offline.
A growing market
India is a growing market and is actually the largest growing market on the planet for Facebook. They currently have around 184 million active monthly users in the country, of which about half use the site every day. Compare that to messaging and voice calling app, WhatsApp, which has now more than 200 million active users a month in India.
Express WIFI has been gaining ground in India, although the domestic government has banned some connections. There is also a cost-free alternative, called Free Basics available in some areas. Free Basics be found in almost two dozen different territories around the world. Through Free Basics, Facebook is offering access to selected sites completely free of charge.
The latest initiative with Express WIFI will not be for free, though. Both companies are aiming on capitalizing on India’s growth for long term success. Watch this space.