Facebook will soon give rural India a big fillip by teaming up with BSNL for setting up 100 Wi-Fi hotspots in villages, at a total cost of Rs.5 crores. This will be on a revenue sharing basis. FB has agreed to buy bandwidth from India for a trial period of 3 years, which could be extended for a further 2 years. “We are aiming to complete the Wi-Fi rollout by December 31 this year.”, BSNL chairman and managing director Anupam Shrivastava told ET.
The deal was finalised during Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s trip to India where he also visited the IIT-Delhi campus expounding on internet.org. “Connecting the 1 billion unconnected in India is not only an important thing for India, it’s one of the best things we can do to improve the world overall.”, Zuckerberg said in his address at IIT-Delhi.
The consumers will get for the first half hour free internet connectivity. The project tie-up with BSNL and FB, also includes includes IT infrastructure services providers such as Quad Zen and Trimax for equipment and fibre deployment. Whilst for the South, Qaud Zen will handle equipment sourcing coupled with sales and marketing, Trimax will provide services for the North..
The initiative has special significance to both FB and India. Founder Mark Zuckerberg’s mission of connecting the next billion to the internet will be realized as well as the goal of the new government to digitalise India. “We are focusing on Wi-Fi hotspots in line with the government strategy of Digital India,” added Shrivastava. This could also be a smart tactical move by the founder of FB for introducing his “Free Basics” scheme which has found huge opposition from net neutrality supporters. The objective of Free Basics being to bring affordable access to selected Internet services to less developed countries by increasing efficiency, and facilitating the development.”
With internet penetration into the interiors of India, the hinterland is fast getting connected to the mainland (metros). The recent mega sales by online portals witnessed a high 46% buyers from tier 2 cities. Undoubtedly the rural population love to ape their urban counterparts, who are the innovators of fashion and lifestyles. Perhaps India will become more homogenous than heterogeneous. Will homogenizing of lifestyles in India, take away the advantage of India’s diversity and plurality?