In the U.S. market, many innovators have looked to the concept of “anchor tenants” as one way to build a sustainable Internet access service. Schools, hospitals or government buildings often are seen as suitable anchor institutions.
Some would-be suppliers of gigabit access, for example, think it makes sense to connect anchor institutions that essentially become hubs for more-extensive networks surrounding the anchor locations.
The same concept underpins many rural Internet access efforts, which first try to connect schools, for example, and then use the schools as hubs. In some ways, that is the concept behind village kiosks that are connected by satellite links, and then use Wi-Fi for local distribution.
Facebook‘s “Express Wi-Fi” uses the same concept, encouraging anchor tenants to become local Internet service providers, providing a sustainable business model.
“We are already live in India and Indonesia with Express Wi-Fi,” said Ryan Wallace, Facebook technical program manager. “If you look at Myanmar as a great example that has got poor fiber infrastructure so satellite would probably be an interesting play there.”
“The Philippines is an island nation, so fiber is very much within the metropolitan areas. Satellite could be a big play there.”
Facebook has partnered with an Indian rural Internet access provider, AirJaldi, to manage the actual installation and operation of the Express Wi-Fi service.
For AirJaldi, which is based in Dharamsala and mostly provides Internet services to large customers like the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan government in exile, the project is a chance to figure out how to make money serving a widely dispersed customer base.