Gurgaon, India based Telecom operator, Bharti Airtel is launching a new internet access plan wherein the users will not be charge for any data plan when accessing some partner apps. Users will not be charged for any data transfer when they are accessing apps, gaming platform, Internet based services, etc. Airtel Zero would be available on iOS and Android platform to start with.
Airtel’s plan is not to be confused with Facebook’s Internet.org initiative wherein the Social Media site is providing free data services to users in 3rd world countries. This is a new model from Airtel wherein instead of charging the end consumers the Telco will charge the app developers. Airtel is expected to add up to 100 app developers to its platform and the developer may pay up to Rs 1000/GB of data download to Airtel. Airtel has not provided any confirmation on the current number of developers who are currently joining their platform and the pricing scheme being offered to them.
Also See: Airtel introduces ‘One Touch Internet’ – a WAP (Wireless Application Protocol)
Mr. Srini Gopalan, Director in Consumer Business of Airtel India comments:
“We believe that this platform is consistent with India’s Digital Inclusion agenda and also contributes to the government’s ‘Make in India’ vision by providing a platform to millions of small businesses to reach out to the end consumer”.
Airtel has released this plan as a win-win for consumers as well as app developers. According to Airtel this platform will reduce the digital marketing bill of the Apps developers by connecting them directly to the consumers while consumers will enjoy free data services.
Airtel has come under a lot of Public Debate of Net Neutrality in December last year when they launched VoIP packs on top of Data packs to check the growth of Mobile voice calling services. Airtel Zero is again being seen as hindrance to concept of Net Neutrality as this platform would provide preferential treatment to some apps service providers. The concept of Net Neutrality calls for fair and similar access to all the services and applications available on internet.
The Airtel Zero plan will create a differentiated market for the consumers. This will force feed them with some apps or services for free. Also by making web developers to pay for their apps, Airtel will increase their cost of operation, which could be absorbed by Venture funded big developers like Snapdeal, Flipkart, Amazon, etc. but this would be a serious cost overhead for small time niche developers.