Facebook today launched a partner program for its Express WiFi initiative. Express WiFi helps to bring high-speed data connections to developing markets like India and Indonesia.
The initiative includes local business owners installing WiFi Hotspots. The internet here is provided by local ISPs, mobile network operators, and others that Facebook has partnered with.
Now, Facebook is launching a new partner program that will allow access point manufacturers to build devices compatible with Express WiFi. The partner program’s name is “Express Wi-Fi Certified”. It’s debuting with Arista, Cambium Networks, and Ruckus Networks, an ARRIS Company.
Facebook started testing Express WiFi three years ago before expanding it to India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania. The idea behind the project is to create an entrepreneurial grassroots base for the its Wi-Fi service. Which means that ISPs should work with local entrepreneurs who want to resell internet access in their own communities. The partners set the prices, but Facebook provides the software.
A while ago, Facebook introduced a program called Free Basics. Unfortunately, the program was criticized over net neutrality concerns, as it only provided access to specific websites, like Facebook, of course. As a result, India banned that program in 2016.
Whereas Express WiFi offers unrestricted access to the web, not a selection of pre-approved sites and services. It joins Facebook’s other connectivity initiatives like OpenCellular, rural access programs, drones, and other infrastructure projects.
Express WiFi will allow service providers to sell prepaid access. Or perhaps some services or content for free, while charging for others.
Facebook says having hardware manufacturers on board will help its operator partners more easily set up and manage their Express Wi-Fi hotspots.
With all these efforts, Facebook plans to connect the vast majority of people in developing countries ultimately bringing new users to Facebook.
Have you ever used Express Wi-Fi? Let us know in the comments below.