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Social media giant Facebook will assist state-owned telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) in setting up 100 Wi-Fi hotspots in rural areas of western and southern India.

Facebook will invest Rs 5 crore per annum towards sponsoring the hotspots, giving a boost to the government's ambitious "Digital India" push.

"Facebook has partnered with us to sponsor 100 Wi-Fi hotspots in villages across western and southern India. They will pay Rs 5 lakh for BSNL bandwidth for each hotspot per annum," BSNL Chairman & MD Anupam Shrivastava told PTI.

Quad Zen, the vendor chosen by BSNL, is currently in the process of setting up 100 such sites across the country.

"We have already set up 25 hotspots under the agreement. Facebook is only sponsoring them. Quad Zen will set up these hotspots and handle sales. There is a revenue-share model between BSNL and Quad Zen," said Shrivastava.

The agreement between Facebook and BSNL can be extended to five years from the current three years, he said.

Besides, Members of Parliament (MPs) have evinced interest in a BSNL project to set up Wi-Fi hotspots in the villages they have adopted under the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY).

"Union ministers Nitin Gadkari, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Najma Heptulla and Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan are sponsoring BSNL bandwidth for Wi-Fi hotspots in villages they have adopted under the SAGY. BSNL approached MPs explaining this model under the MPLAD scheme, and over 50 MPs have responded positively to it," said Shrivastava.

BSNL has already partnered with Quad Zen and Trimax to set up 2,500 Wi-Fi hotspots, apart from the latest sponsorship.

"With Facebook and MPs coming forward, we are now able to set up Wi-Fi hotspots in areas where it is not commercially feasible to run them. We are quickly extending optical fibre connectivity to these hotspots," said Shrivastava.

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