08 April 2015 12:21:39 IST

Airtel offers free internet access under ‘Zero’ plan

Airtel is in talks with potential partners and is expected to launch with at least 100 apps on the platform.

Move to counter Facebook’s Internet.org scheme

Bharti Airtel is launching a new platform that will enable users to get access to applications and services at zero data charges. Called ‘Airtel Zero’, the platform will allow users to access chat apps, e-commerce sites, gaming portals and other Internet-based services without having to pay for the data usage.

Under the new model, Airtel will collect the data charges from the app service providers. Airtel is in talks with potential partners and is expected to launch with at least 100 apps on the platform. <div class="article-content-with-vertical-text"> Airtel Zero is initially accessible on Android and iOS platforms.<div class="article-text"><p> </p></div></div>

“This is exciting for customers because a lot of their favourite apps can be now accessed without data charges, and a lot of new app that small start-ups want to offer, now becomes free,” Srini Gopalan, director-consumer business at Bharti Airtel, said.

Make in India vision

Airtel Zero, which is initially accessible on Android and iOS platforms, helps to reduce costs by one-third for start-ups doing digital marketing.

When asked if this platform goes against the principles of net neutrality, Gopalan said that everyone is free to join the platform.

“This is an open, with a non-discriminatory pricing, and we believe this would be a real win-win for customers and e-commerce players,” he said, adding that this is in sync with the Centre’s digital inclusion and Make in India vision.

Airtel Zero is initially accessible on Android and iOS platforms.

In talks with start-ups

The operator is in advanced stages of talks with start-ups for partnerships, including the largest e-commerce players in the country.

Market watchers see this as a counter to other schemes such as the Internet.org started by Facebook, aimed at making internet access free to users. But until now this has been driven by the internet companies and it resulted in telecom companies bearing the cost of offering subsidised internet connection. On Airtel Zero platform, the internet companies will foot the bill.