India is the second-largest mobile market, the third-largest population of Internet users, and smartphone sales surged 90% in Q4 of 2014. However, less than 20% of the country’s population can access the Internet, leaving over a billion people offline. Facebook is introducing a solution to this problem.
Facebook has teamed up with India’s Reliance Communications to provide free basic internet services on smartphones, making India the first country in Asia to get Facebook’s Internet.org service.
The companies will first offer the app in seven of India’s 22 regions (or zones) and then it will become nationwide over the next three months, Gurdeep Singh, chief executive of Reliance’s consumer business told reporters.
This app will be available to all of Reliance’s 106.3 million subscribers who have handsets capable of handling Internet traffic, and it will offer free access via smartphone to more than 30 pared-down web services, focused on job listings, agricultural information, healthcare and education sites in seven regional languages. And, of course, it will allow access to Facebook’s own social network and messaging services.
Markku Makelainen, Facebook’s director of Global Operator Partnerships, told Reuters:
We address the affordability of data by having beneficial services and then we’ll make it scalable for our partners so that once these users want to use more, they just buy the regular (data) plan,”
As of now, it has not been revealed who will cover the cost of carrying this data traffic for free.