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Facebook & Reliance tie-up to launch Internet.org in India

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MUMBAI: They are both large corporations in their respective fields, having almost the same two identical colours as part of their logo. And now after its tryst in African nations, Facebook today launched its product, Internet.org services in India by partnering with telco Reliance Communications.

Reliance Communications consumer business CEO Gurdeep Singh said that the idea behind it was to provide free access to 33 popular websites to its consumers without any cost, thereby democratising the consumption of internet.

Adding some insights, Singh explained that one fourth of the world’s consumers who are yet to be “online” were present in India, out of which a further 70 per cent of India’s mobile users are yet to touch base with the evolving cyberspace.

In a video taped message, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “We needed to make data more affordable and offer free services to the people of India. The idea was born during my visit to India last year where we met and discussed with the team from Reliance and decided to collaborate together.”

Internet.org services is a bouquet of 33 popular websites put together, that besides entertaining consumers also provides a few utilities services free of cost. For now, only Reliance subscribers will be able to access the bundle by downloading the “FreeNet” connection app. To do so, a subscriber has to log on to www.internet.org or call up on 1800 300 25353.

Facebook Internet.org vice president Chris Daniels informed, “After meeting the Reliance team in October last year we decided to come up with 30 free basic services across genres. We also are working with the Andhra Pradesh government and have come up with “AP Speaks” through which users and citizens will be able to send real time feedback and ideas to the government of the state.”

The bouquet for now will consist of the following websites:

Careers and Jobs: TimesJobs, Babajob.

Education and Knowledge: Wikipedi, wikiHow, Dictionary.com, Translator, Reuters Market Lite, Jagran Josh.

Health and Social Welfare: Facts of Life (UNICEF), BabyCenter&MAMA, Girl Effect (Nike Foundation), iLearn (UN Women), Malaria No More, Social Blood, AP Speaks.

News: BCC News, Times of India, India Today, NDTV, BBC News, IBNLive, Aaj Tak,Amarujala.com, Daily Bhaskar, Maalai Malar, Maharashtra Times, Jagran, Newshunt, Manoramanews.com

Search: Bing (from Microsoft)

Social: Facebook, Facebook Messenger

Sports: ESPN Cricinfo

Utility: OLX, Astro, Cleartrip, AccuWeather

But the free Facebook app present in the bundle is a compressed version and currently cannot support video viewing option that otherwise is present on the normal version of Facebook. Only when consumers activate a data plan, will they be able to access the normal version of Facebook.

Low consumption of the internet in India was attributed to reasons like user capability, lack of awareness of the internet, language fragmentation and the key factor of cost and affordability. To address these hurdles, Singh said that the app has been designed in a manner that it is not bandwidth hungry. It will also be available in six local languages like Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Guajarati, and Marathi apart from English and Hindi. For now Reliance subscribers in seven telecom circles of Gujarat, Mumbai, Maharashtra, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Chennai will be able to avail the facility. No data pack is required to avail the bouquet and all phones which are internet capable can make use of the bundle.

The marketing of the Internet.org services will be carried entirely by Reliance Communications. When asked about the revenue model and who would bear the cost of the initiative, officials from both sides declined to comment.

When questioned if Facebook was looking at expanding the service with other telcos, Daniels told Indiantelevision.com, “We have so far not been approached by other companies except Reliance. We will look at options when approached further on.”

Singh on a concluding note said that the service will be offered free for lifetime and in the coming 90 days will be launched pan India. The focus will also be on strengthening the content of the bundle.

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