Anil Ambani led group, Reliance Communications of India and Facebook have joined hands on Tuesday to offer free internet access and websites to customers through the social networking site’s global digital inclusion initiative, Internet.org. Internet.org is Mark Zuckerberg’s idea to provide free data to mobile users in developing countries, where Facebook partners with telecom service providers and content partners.
Internet.org seeks to connect Reliance Communication (RCom) subscribers to free internet to the list of 33 websites and services. The bouquet of free internet services span across genres of good mix of news websites, educational sites, sport websites and health and welfare sites that includes BBC News, IBNLive, Times of India, Wikipedia, Translator, wikiHow, BabyCentre,iLearn, Socialblood and so on.
According to RCom, these services will be available to RCom subscribers free of cost. The RCom customers can either log on to www.internet.org or call 1800 300 25353 (toll free) to get the service activated. Internet.org works as a mobile website on featured phones, whereas for Android phones, Internet.org app has to be downloaded.
Two tabs – Free Services and Reliance – are presented once logged on to Internet.org. As the name implies, the Free services tab, comprises of 33 websites that can be browsed free of cost. Currently, the services are available in English, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Gujarati and Marathi. Many more services and languages would be added soon.
It has to be noted that Facebook has only given Facebook Messenger and a simple version of Facebook app for Internet.org. For the image heavy social network, RCom allows the users to read and post status messages, like or comment on the statuses and pictures. The pictures would appear blur and to view it better or to download it, data plan or active data connection is required. Currently, one can’t find anyother social networking site other than Facebook not even Facebook’s WhatsApp.
The free services could be availed through any internet-enabled phones (smartphones and feature phones). It will appear as mobile website for most phones. The app is currently available for Android platform only. Details regarding its availability on other platforms is not available. Others can access it through their phone browsers.
Facebook and government of Andra Pradesh have come up with an app APSpeaks which allows the state citizens put forth their grievances and complaints to the Andra Pradesh Government directly.
Loading pages is not a task for smartphone but for feature phones, it definitely is. Factors like network connectivity and make of the phone affects the loading speed. But during the demo, a two-year old feature phone took over a minute to load a text-heavy page.
Facebook has claimed to have worked with many content partners to help optimize the content in a way that uses limited bandwidth. But the exact number of data transfer speed for the app is not revealed by the RCom representatives.
Facebook has partnered with more than 150 wireless providers over the past four years to offer free or discounted access to its social network, but the new Internet.org app is the first time the company has added services beyond its own website.
The service is currently available RCom users at Maharashtra, Kerala and Gujarat. Other states are expected to get on the board soon. This service is definitely a boon for the Reliance customers who can explore internet in everyday life without having to worry about the data charges.