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Facebook to certify Express WiFi compatible hardware with existing partners

Facebook has launched an “Express WiFi Certified” program which will allow access point manufacturers to build devices compatible with Facebook’s Express WiFi. Outside India, Express WiFi is available in Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania.

Facebook will start Express WiFi Certified with exisiting partners Arista, Cambium Networks, and Ruckus Networks. The program runs on prepaid packs purchased by users. Facebook claims that the new access points better detect the WiFi registration pages and accounts for data usage. The new access points will also account for different traffic classes – it will allow ISP providers to differentially price some services and provide other content free of cost.

The new access points are also able to account for different traffic classes, which allows Wi-Fi service providers to offer consumers a more diverse set of services (such as offering certain services or content for free while charging for others).

Facebook’s Express WiFi initiative piloted in India in 2015. Facebook provides software support for these hotspots while partner ISPs themselves run the network; and revenue is then shared between the ISPs and Facebook. The program has 1,000 hotspots in India as of June, and if offered through partnerships with Tikona, AirJaldi, Shaildhar, Netvision, Airtel and BSNL. In 2017, Bharti Airtel and Facebook said that their partnership would build 20,000 public Wi-Fi hotspots in the country.

Facebook plans to monetize the service in two ways:
– by selling coupons to customers through retailers. That way, the hotspot does not remain limited those who can make digital payments.
– Facebook will place ads on the captive portal where users login with their mobile number and a one-time passcode sent over SMS.

Read: A look at the regulatory situation, as Facebook partners Airtel to expand Express WiFi in India

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Google’s wifi at Indian Railways

Google offers WiFi spots on Indian railway stations. In 2015, Google unveiled Google Station across many train stations in partnership with Indian Railways and the ISP RailTel. Last month, Google’s Caesar Sengupta announced that the company had covered 400 stations across the country. 

Also read: Govt should improve conditions for public WiFi: Google-commissioned report


India’s telco regulator TRAI was responsible for the regulation which made Facebook’s garden-walled Free Basics illegal. TRAI is currently piloting the WiFi access network interface (WANI), a standardised captive portal for public WiFi. Public WiFi regulations in India require hotspots to authenticate users on the network, and while operators like Facebook and Google message one-time passcodes, TRAI wants to standardize the authentication process with Aadhaar in WANI.

Check our public WiFi coverage here.

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