Facebook, RCom offer free internet service in seven states

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Feb 10, 2015 22:57 IST

Anil Ambani-led Reliance Communications and social networking giant Facebook on Tuesday announced a tie-up to provide free data services to consumers in seven states within the next three months.

The service will enable every consumer even with a basic phone and an internet connection to get free data from 33 popular websites for lifetime, in their local languages, besides free Facebook access.

The free websites include Facebook, ecommerce portal OLX, Cleartrip, Babajob, The Careers & Jobs, Babajob Education & Knowledge: Wikipedia, wikiHow, Dictionary.com, Translator, Reuters Market Lite and Microsoft's Bing among others.

RCom customers can access these websites with zero data charges at internet.org, or in the internet.org Android app.

With Facebook seeking to connect more people in the world's second-biggest mobile market with the internet, India will become the first country in Asia to get the new internet.org app. The app targets cellphone users.

"About 70% of people in India don't have access to internet," said Gurdeep Singh, CEO, consumer business, RCom. "We need to connect a billion people to the internet."

Most of the services will be available in English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Gujarati and Marathi, to begin with.

The service has been initially launched for RCom customers in Mumbai, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Chennai, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

"We are committed to launching it on a pan-India level within 90 days," Singh said.

RCom is likely to bear the data cost, though Singh declined to comment, saying the issue will be discussed later.

"We still have a long way to go to connect India," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a video message from the US. "But I'm optimistic that by getting free basic services into people's hands, more change can follow rapidly."

Later, Zuckerberg's post on his profile on internet.org said: "One day we will connect everyone, and the power of the internet will serve every community across India and the world."

Internet.org is a partnership between Facebook and six companies -Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Microsoft, Opera Software, and Qualcomm - that aims to bring affordable internet access to to the two thirds of the world not yet connected. It was launched on August 20, 2013.

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