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Facebook Targets India's HinterlandFacebook Targets India's Hinterland

The social networking giant is looking to become a connectivity player.

Gagandeep Kaur

September 25, 2015

2 Min Read
Facebook Targets India's Hinterland

After moves by Google and Microsoft, social networking giant Facebook is now looking to provide free or low-cost Internet access in India's rural areas, according to local media reports.

Apparently called WiFi Express, the service Facebook is promoting forms a part of its initiative to offer Internet connectivity in the country's hinterland. Facebook is said to be conducting a pilot of the service at several locations in north India, with reports suggesting the company is experimenting with various business models before it tries to expand across the country.

Facebook, of course, is not the only technology giant with an initiative to connect the unconnected. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is planning to offer WiFi at subsidized rates in India and laying fiber in the state of Telangana in the south of the country for this purpose. Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) is seeking permission from India's government to provide Internet connectivity at low prices using white-space technology.

For more fixed broadband market coverage and insights, check out our dedicated broadband content channel here on Light Reading.

It is easy to see why the Indian market is especially tempting for technology firms: With a population of 1.3 billion, the country remains one of the few large untapped markets in the world. Moreover, a substantial percentage of India's population speaks English. That most of these technology players have failed to make any headway in neighboring China -- the biggest economy in the region -- further bolsters India's importance.

Yet technology players may struggle to realize this potential given basic problems, such as the lack of decent last-mile connectivity. An even bigger worry may be the current debate over net neutrality. In India, there has already been a public outcry about Internet.org, a Facebook-led initiative that offers customers free or heavily discounted access to particular websites. It may be difficult to restrain the technology giants if they control the Internet pipes as well. (See DoT Pushes for Net Neutrality in India and Airtel Zero Sparks Net Neutrality Debate in India.)

— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Gagandeep Kaur

Contributing Editor

With more than a decade of experience, Gagandeep Kaur Sodhi has worked for the most prominent Indian communications industry publications including Dataquest, Business Standard, The Times of India, and Voice&Data, as well as for Light Reading. Delhi-based Kaur, who has knowledge of and covers a broad range of telecom industry developments, regularly interacts with the senior management of companies in India's telecom sector and has been directly responsible for delegate and speaker acquisition for prominent events such as Mobile Broadband Summit, 4G World India, and Next Generation Packet Transport Network.

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