project launches in India to bridge internet divide

10 Feb 2015

Social network Facebook’s project – to bring free mobile internet to the world – gets its biggest test to date following its launch in India on the Reliance mobile network.

Launched last year, the project is one of the many various efforts being made by major tech companies to give the world access to the internet through mobile devices anywhere on the planet with the help of satellites, balloons and, in Facebook’s case, solar-powered drones, which beam broadband signals down to the surface. has proven to be one of the first companies to actually launch a test bed for the service, with the first trial service having begun in the African state of Zambia last July, followed by Tanzania and Kenya. The project now faces a much more daunting task of connecting a population of more than 1bn people in India.

Connecting rural India

However, in its current guise, the project’s entry into the Indian market won’t cover the entire Indian population as it is being tested just on the Reliance network in six Indian states, with the service being accessible through a standalone Android app, the start screen of the Opera Mini mobile web browser, or by using the Android app UC Browser.

Facebook has also confirmed that almost all of the 38 services will be available in six languages – five Indian dialects and English – that will include weather, sport, news, financial, and local government information, among others.

The decision to launch through India has been a long time in the making, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg travelling to the country to launch the first Summit in New Delhi last October, where he also launched a US$1m prize for app developers to create a service to connect rural India.

Men on mobile phones image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic