While Facebook has constantly boosted about having a special corner for its Indian users since they form the second-largest user base for the social networking site, but unfortunately this time their action isn’t in coherence with their this speech. The Mark Zuckerberg led company has decided not bring its unmanned solar-powered drone, Aquila, to the Indian subcontinent.
Aimed at providing infrastructure for affordable internet connectivity in remote areas all around the world, Aquila could have made substantial difference in India’s below-average internet connectivity scenario.
The social networking decision to not bring Aquila to India was recently confirmed by Facebook’s India and South Asia managing director, Umang Bedi to a website.
Earlier in the month, India’s Aquila dreams were fanned by an ET report which quoted Robert Pepper, Facebook’s connectivity public policy director, divulging the fact that the California-based giant was currently in the midst of talks with a number of Indian telcos for the trials of the drones.
What makes Aquila so interesting to the world is the fact that solar-powered drone’s wingspan is wider than a regular Boeing 737 and is capable of staying in the air for up to a whopping 90 days at one go, delivering internet connection in remote areas where fibre connectivity hasn’t completely reached yet. The drone has a potential of delivering internet in a 96.5-km radius. Unfortunately, Aquila is currently under investigation in the United States after it recently met with an accident.
Whether or not this investigation has something to do with the project being scrapped for India can only be speculated about, at this moment.
Though Aquila might not be coming to India, Facebook is still looking at a sustainable development effort in the country via one of its new initiatives called the Express Wifi. Though the project is still in early stage pilot, but the social networking giant has already started working with telcos and entrepreneurs.
Express Wifi is going to allow users to purchase internet from local data providers, and according to a leading daily, it has already successfully been offered at 125 rural Wifi hotspots as part of the pilot. As soon as the pilot materialises, we can expect more details on the project.
According to Bedi, not only is India Facebook’s second-largest market, but it is also “the most strategic market” for the company.
Facebook’s Express Wifi initiative comes after Facebook’s Free Basics was banned by India’s Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) earlier this year for violating the principles of net neutrality. Free Basics pitched to provide some of the websites such as its own absolutely free of cost. But, with the Express Wifi initiative, Facebook will be adhering to all the rules and regulations of the land.
According to Bedi, Facebook’s vision for India is to remain a “loved and trusted brand.”
[Top Image: rark.in]