Reliance Communications (RCom) on Tuesday said that it has tied up with Facebook to offer free access to handful of Indian websites, across both its 2G and 3G platforms. The latest offering by RCom can be accessed through the new Internet.org Android application and website, which has been developed by Facebook, and is predominantly aimed at low income and rural users.
Internet.org, which is currently available to RCom subscribers in seven circles — Mumbai, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Chennai, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka — will allow users to access over 30 websites, including news, job listings, healthcare and education sites, as well as Facebook’s own social network and messaging services without having to pay data charges.
RCom will roll out Internet.org for its subscribers in the next 90 days, said RCom’s consumer business CEO Gurdeep Singh. “We aim to increase internet inclusion and encourage more Indians to go online,” Singh said, adding, “This partnership will not only accelerate internet penetration in India, it will also open new socio-economic opportunities to users in fields like education, information and commerce.”
Facebook, which has helped RCom roll out Internet.org, hopes to attract more users using the initiative.
“We are hoping to induct five billion new users across the world to Facebook using Internet.org app and website in the coming months,” said Chris Daniels, vice-president of Internet.org at Facebook.
However, industry experts see Internet.org application and website as Facebook’s attempt to compete with Google to become a major gateway to web.
“At present, most web tariff is generated through Google, which churns out huge amount of revenue for the company. Internet.org is positioned to compete with Google, albeit at a lower scale since it is initially targeted at low-income users,” said an industry analyst.