Google brings free WiFi to Mexico, first stop in Latin America

A man checks his phone outside the Google headquarters in Mexico City, Mexico March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo
A sign shows the logo of Google Station before a news conference to announce the launching of a network of free WI-FI hotspots across the country, in Mexico City, Mexico March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo
The Google logo is pictured atop an office building in Irvine, California, U.S. August 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Vice President of Product Management at Google Anjali Joshi looks on during a news conference to announce the launching of Google Station, a network of free WI-FI hotspots across the country, in Mexico City, Mexico March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo
Vice President of Product Management at Google, Anjali Joshi, looks on during a news conference to announce the launching of Google Station, a network of free WI-FI hotspots across the country, in Mexico City, Mexico March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo
A sign shows the Google Station logo before a news conference to announce the launching of a network of free WI-FI hotspots across the country, in Mexico City, Mexico March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo
A man walks by the logo of Google Station before a news conference to announce a network of free WI-FI hotspots across the country, in Mexico City, Mexico March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo
Journalists wait at a news conference, for the launch of Google Station, a network of free WI-FI hotspots across the country, in Mexico City, Mexico March 13, 2018. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo

By Julia Love

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Alphabet's Google said on Tuesday that it will launch a network of free Wi-Fi hotspots across Mexico, part of the search giant's effort to improve connectivity in emerging markets and put its products in the hands of more users.

Google Station, an ad-supported network of Wi-Fi hotspots in high-traffic locations, is launching in Mexico with 56 hotspots and others planned, the company said.

Mexico will be Google Station's third market following India and Indonesia, and the first in Latin America.

Mexico has made great strides in connectivity since a 2013-14 telecom reform intended to loosen the grip of billionaire Carlos Slim's America Movil, which has long dominated the market.

From 2013 to 2016, the number of people accessing the Internet in Mexico rose by 20 million, according to a report last fall by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Still, the country lags behind other OECD nations in terms of internet access, the report said.

"We are finding that public Wi-Fi remains still a very important way to get online," Anjali Joshi, a vice president for product management at Google, told reporters.

She added that Google saw Mexico as a good entrypoint for the product in Latin America. Mexico-based SitWifi provided equipment for the hotspots.

Google's initial batch of Wi-Fi zones is scattered across the country, from the Ciudad Juarez airport at the U.S. border to posh shopping centers in Mexico City.

Google Station now counts roughly 8 million users a month in India, where the program began in 2016.

(Reporting by Julia Love; Additional reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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