Facebook and BSNL to install WiFi hotspots in villages across India

Facebook has partnered with BSNL to install 100 WiFi hotspots in villages across the country. According to BSNL officials, Facebook will spend ₹5 crore every year on this project. As confirmed by BSNL, 25 hotspots are already set up and Facebook is not taking any revenue share from this project.

These internet related projects will help extend connectivity across the country, which in return would boost the Digital India initiative by the government of India. Digital India aims to provide all government services electronically over the internet, and having wide internet connectivity across the country would help the government provide its services to much larger audience.

According to BSNL Chairman Anupam Shrivastava,

Facebook has partnered with us (BSNL) to sponsor 100 WiFi hotspots in villages across west and southern India. They will pay ₹5 lakh for BSNL bandwidth for each hotspot per annum (per year).

The agreement between Facebook and BSNL is currently inked for three years, but can further be extended for up to two more years, resulting in total of five years, as confirmed by Shrivastava.

According to BSNL, the 100 WiFi hotspots sponsored by Facebook are being set up by Quad Zen, in addition to 2,500 hotspots that are being set up by BSNL in partnership with Quad Zen and Trimax. So, BSNL is currently working on setting up 2,600 WiFi hotspots across India, though no completion date has been announced.

By partnering with BSNL, Quad Zen will install total of 2,000 WiFi hotspots, and Trimax will install the remaining 500 hotspots. Though no fixed completion date has been provided yet for this project.

Both Quad Zen and Trimax have a revenue share in this project, unlike Facebook, which is just sponsoring the project without taking any revenue out of it.

During the announcement, Anupam Shirvastava said,

We have already set up 25 hotspots under the agreement. Facebook is only sponsoring them and not taking any revenue share. Quad Zen will set up these hotspots and handle sales. There is revenue share model between BSNL and Quad Zen.

He also added that BSNL has received very positive response from several MPs (members of parliament), confirming his statement, he said,

Union ministers Nitin Gadkari, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Najma Heptulla, and Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan are sponsoring BSNL bandwidth for WiFi hotspots in the villages that they have adopted under SAGY (Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana). BSNL approached MPs explaining this model under MPLAD scheme and over 50 MPs have responded positively to it.

In addition to that, with the support of several government officials, BSNL is easily setting up these WiFi hotspots in rural areas and extending optical fibre connectivity on these hotspots.

The announcement comes after some time since the announcement of similar projects by Google and Microsoft to increase internet connectivity across India. While Facebook is pushing further to India with Mark Zuckerberg’s latest visit to the country and discussing issues surrounding its Free Basics (Internet.org) service – which aims to provide free internet access by allowing only selected services.

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