The first wi-fi vendors to join the program include Arista, Cambium Networks, and Ruckus Networks. By certifying access point hardware, Facebook is aiming to improve the service quality provided by Express Wi-Fi, and to make it easier for operators to set up and manage hot spots.
Express Wi-Fi was launched in 2015 as a way to enable local ISPs, mobile network operators and entrepreneurs to bring fast and affordable internet access to under-served areas. In places with Express Wi-Fi hotspots, consumers typically sign up with a participating small business and purchase a prepaid data pack. The program is currently operating with 10 partners in five countries: India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania.
The new certification program should address a couple specific challenges the Express Wi-Fi program has faced, Facebook explained Tuesday. The certified hardware should do a better job detecting registration pages, ad they should more accurately account for the amount of wi-fi data consumed. The certified access points will also able to account for different traffic classes, which should enable service providers to offer multiple tiers of service.
With more than 2 billion active users already and growth stalling, Facebook's connectivity initiatives offer one of the few ways the social network can find new users.