As expected, RCom and Facebook today announced Internet.org in India that will provide free access to 33 websites for free. The service has been launched in seven circles and will work for both existing and new RCom subscribers and will work on feature phones as well as Android smartphones.
Internet.org will initially be available in seven circles of Mumbai, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Chennai, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. “We have gone live with seven circles and are committed to going pan-India in 90 days,” said Gurdeep Singh, CEO, consumer business, RCom.
The free access to websites include news, maternal health, travel, local jobs, sports, communication, and local government information. Internet.org has already been announced in five countries but the list of websites is the most exhaustive in India. RCom says it will add more content to the initiative.
Singh pointed out that 70 percent of mobile India is currently not online and this is an initiative to bring currently offline users online. This initiative will also help RCom acquire more subscribers, who it hopes will eventually pay for data to access the entire Internet once they get hooked on to the Internet. For Facebook, Internet.org will give access to potential first-time Internet users who are not signed up, yet. Internet.org provides access to a basic version of Facebook as well as Facebook Messenger.
Both RCom and Facebook did not comment on who is bearing the cost of providing the free data access. However, executives from both companies said that the service has been optimized to consume minimum bandwidth. It will work on both 2G and 3G networks. For feature phones, Internet.org would open in a web browser and for Android smartphones, there is an app.
Facebook and RCom have also tied up with the Andhra Pradesh government for AP Speaks, a service that enables citizens to share their ideas with the government for best practices to tackle any issues they might be facing.
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