Facebook has expanded its ‘Find WiFi’ feature globally, the company said in blog post.  The feature, which was launched in November last year in select countries on iOS devices, has now been made available on Android as well, in all countries.

Users can find nearby WiFi hotspots using the main Facebook app: the option is available under the ‘More’ tab on the Facebook app. Once a user turns on the ‘Find WiFi’ option, she  can see the closest available hotspots on a map. How this works is that the “Find WiFi” feature helps a user locate available WiFi hot spots nearby that businesses have shared with Facebook from their Page. The user can also get information about the businesses hosting the hotspots.

Note that on the app store there are several apps available that help users find nearby public wifi hotspots such as Wifi-Finder and Wifire etc.

Nikhil adds: Think about how this works for different stakeholders. For Facebook, it creates a situation wherein users can use their app to find WiFi hostpots, and thus increases the utility of their application. It also encourages consumption of richer content, since mobile connectivity is often patchy and low on available bandwidth, especially for video. Mobile is no substitute for WiFi/Wireline. This also helps Facebook users discover the Express WiFi service.

For businesses, it creates a competitive scenario, wherein given two options of places to visit – assuming most things remaining equal – WiFi becomes a key differentiator for a customer. It also pushes people to share their WiFi hotspot details online, and takes us to a situation where businesses putting WiFi in their shops becomes the new normal.

India has seen announcements of a substantial number of WiFi hotspots. See this, this, this and this. The problem of discovery is an important one to address, given that you have mobile Internet connectivity in most parts of the country, and WiFi hotspots are uncommon and hard to discover: you tend to assume that there isn’t a hotspot available.

Facebook and Wifi in India

In May this year, Facebook launched the Express WiFi after piloting the service for 18 months. Through Express WiFi it  plans to install 20,000 WiFi hotspots across the country. For this Facebook ties up with small retailers (bakeries, cafés, juice shops, and so on) and distributes Express WiFi vouchers for cheap through those retailers which users use to connect to a nearby Express WiFi hotpsot.

In May the company said BSNL will power express WiFi program in remote and hilly regions where the connectivity is low.  Facebook has partnered with several ISPs like AirJaldi in Uttarakhand, LMES in Rajasthan, Tikona in Gujarat and Shaildhar in Meghalaya for its WiFi project. It also counts Airtel as a key Express WiFi partner in both India and African regions.

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