Facebook announced a tie-up with operator Reliance Communications (Rcom) that will see the launch of the internet.org app, and free access to a wide range of mobile internet services, for the first time in India.
Internet.org, a Facebook-led initiative, has the ambitious target of providing internet access to everyone on the planet.
As part of making that happen, Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook founder and CEO – believes there is an attractive business model to be had for operators, in emerging markets, to offer basic internet for free.
By ‘zero-rating’ some services, argued Zuckerberg at MWC 2014, more users can become familiar with what can be accessed on their mobile devices. As a consequence, goes this argument, they will be more willing to pay certain amounts for mobile data once they see the attractions.
Facebook said Reliance customers in six Indian states (Tamil Nadu, Mahararashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, and Telangana) will now have access to more than three dozen services. These range from news, maternal health, travel, local jobs, sports, communication, and local government information.
The Android internet.org app can also be accessed through the Opera Mini mobile web browser, which is popular in emerging markets.
Most of the services will be available in English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Gujarati and Marathi.
“This is a big step forward in our efforts to connect everyone to the internet, and to help people share their ideas and creativity with the entire world,” said Facebook in a statement. “We’ll continue to improve the experience and roll it out to other parts of the world.”
In January this year, Facebook chose Colombia as the first Latin American market to launch the internet.org app, making it the fourth country at that time where the app has been made available. Previous launches have all been in Africa, starting with Zambia in July 2014.