Meta has announced that it is shutting down its Express Wi-Fi program that was launched in 2016 to provide cheaper Internet access in select countries. The service provided affordable Internet access in partnership with local Internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile operators in several countries, including India and South Africa. The program integrated with existing networks and was part of the company’s push to improve Internet access in these regions to expand its market.
The company announced in a blog post that it was winding down the service which was available in over 30 countries since it was launched in 2016. Facebook, which was later rebranded to Meta, helped mobile operators, ISPs, and satellite operators to sell affordable Wi-Fi access to users in countries where users were still waiting to be connected to the Internet. According to Meta, the company will continue to work with Express Wi-Fi partners so that the impact on connectivity is minimised.
While Meta has not provided a reason for the shutdown of the service, a recent report suggests that the service was experiencing issues that could result in some users facing unnecessary charges in some countries. The service’s website still lists all the features and benefits of the Express Wi-Fi service, at the time of publishing this article.
Express Wi-Fi was launched in 2016 in India as a cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) platform, after the company’s older Free Basics program was rejected by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). Unlike the older Free Basics program that wound down in 2016, users would have to purchase data packs and access the Internet from Wi-Fi hotspots. The paid Express Wi-Fi service currently allows users in underserved regions to access the Internet. At the time it was launched, Express Wi-Fi was available across nearly 700 hotspots across four states, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Meghalaya.