One year later, Internet.org opens to more mobile operators

27 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Facebook opens up Internet.org to all mobile operators.

Internet.org, which marked its first anniversary on Monday, has been able to bring in new users at a faster pace as well as making at least half of them move to a paid model within a month, Facebook has claimed. A year after Facebook introduced Internet.org, the company is making it easier for any mobile operator to sign up to offer free internet access to basic online services.

In a telephonic interaction with the IndianExpress.com, Chris Daniels, vice-president of product for Internet.org at Facebook, said: “We have noticed that users who have joined Internet.org want to move on and experience more internet. Internet.org first launched in Africa, but has since expanded and is now available in 17 countries — including countries with very large populations like India — spanning three continents, but only worked with select operators. Launched last year, the programme has more than a dozen mobile operators on board across 17 countries offering basic Internet services without data charges to over a billion people. By providing people with access to free basic services through Internet.org, the goal was to bring more people online and help them discover the value of the Internet u2014 and it’s working, Facebook said in a blogpost marking the one-year anniversary of the initiative. “As we approach year two… we are now ready to scale up Internet.org free basic services.

Facebook developed the platform with six technology partners to bring an estimated 4.5 billion unconnected people online, mainly in Latin America, Asia and Africa. Facebook’s blog post said that over the past year, the service had bought new users onto mobile networks on average over 50% faster and that more than half the people using Internet.org are paying for data to access the wider Internet within 30 days. “This is really a customer acquisition tool for mobile operators where the benefit to them of offering a very light amount of free data is to bring on more paying subscribers to their networks,” Daniels said, speaking over phone from Nairobi, where he is attending a summit. But it will be interesting to see how many mobile operators take the bait and how the company handles the regulations that may be imposed on it by countries like India, especially with Google’s Project Loon offering up some stiff competition. The Internet.org application, launched in India in February in partnership with Reliance Communications, faced backlash with a number of leading technology and Internet firms pulling out of the service after activists claimed it violated the principles of a neutral Internet. “I would say India is unique in that respect and very much an outlier. A committee of the telecoms ministry set up to examine the issue of net neutrality earlier this month recommended that collaborations between mobile operators and content providers that enable “gatekeeping” roles should be discouraged.

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