In a bid to help feature phone users with internet access, Airtel in partnership with Google is rolling out a new program to provide free internet access on mobile devices to its customers. Titled as ‘Free Zone’ the subscribers will be allowed free access to Google’s services like Gmail, Google+ and the Google search engine, but will be forced to pay for advance services such as attachment downloads and so on.
“Free Zone powered by Google, will give Airtel mobile customers access to mobile web search and feature phone friendly versions of Gmail and Google+ in India. The first page of a website linked from search results is provided at no data cost,” Airtel said.
Airtel mobile customers can access the service by visiting www.airtel.in/freezone and simply start using the internet without having to sign into the service. Any user can create a Gmail account instantly on the FreeZone homepage and enjoy other social media services from Google.
Speaking about the initiative, N Rajaram, Chief Marketing Officer (Consumer Business), Bharti Airtel said,“In this market, where feature phones predominate, our association with Google to bring Free Zone to India will encourage millions of users to discover the power of mobile Internet for the very first time and leverage the amazing world of information search, email and social collaboration – at no incremental cost.”
Users can have unlimited access to Gmail from their mobile browser but if they click on a link or attachment within the email they are directed to a page where they can purchase a data package. While accessing the internet is free, there is a limit of 1 GB per month. Moreover, Free Zone can only be accessed either from the phone’s default browser or Opera Mini. As soon as you leave the Free Zone, Airtel will inform about the applicable data charges and also given an option to purchase an appropriate data package.
Rajan Anandan, MD, Google India, said, “The mobile Internet user base is growing fast in India. Working with Airtel on this trial means that we can offer Internet services at no cost to anyone with a phone.” Google introduced the Free Zone service in the Philippines last November, through a partnership with local telco Globe Telecom.
Telecom operators partnering with social media and instant mobile messaging services has become quite the trend lately. Last week Idea rolled out free Facebook Messenger service for all its prepaid subscribers. Reliance had also partnered Whats App and Twitter for free services. Last week telecom operators like Vodafone, Idea, Tata Docomo and even Airtel slashed mobile data rates. Airtel has been facing a tough time lately with Government denying extension to 2G licence. Also, the company may have to pay a hefty penalty for routing ISD calls.
Image Courtesy | airtel.in