VIDEO INTERVIEW: Diego Gutierrez, CEO of Tigo Tanzania, one of the early backers of Facebook-led internet.org, pushed back against some of the negative perceptions around the initiative, in an interview with Mobile World Live.
“I think zero rated is a not terrible word, but we need to be very smart in how we use it,” said Gutierrez.
Tigo Tanzania was one of the first operators to launch the internet.org app in October 2014, offering users free access to a range of internet services, including Facebook. In September 2015, the internet.org app was renamed Free Basics.
Tigo sees it as “a way to create habits”, but warned that operators cannot use it forever, only as a way to get customers hooked.
The service ran into a wave of criticism, in particular in India. Earlier this year, India’s telecoms regulator, TRAI, ruled against differential data pricing following a national debate and furious lobbying by supporters and opponents of Free Basics.
The regulator’s decision effectively banned the Facebook-backed service, at least in its current form, in India.
Gutierrez, however, has a happier tale: Having launched Facebook in Swahili, the Tanzanian operator became a market leader in respect to Facebook users, who also started using new services which they paid for, leading to an increase in average revenue per user.
Watch the full video here.