OTTs and telcos really need to come up with better names to differentiate their products and services. Really. Or maybe confusion is just the point. First there was Free Basics, Facebook’s service which gives free access to a set of applications inside the app (it was previously called Internet.org, a supposedly clever name which of course was used by Facebooks critics point out the fact that it wasn’t really the “Internet”, but again, perhaps that was the point). Facebook’s Free Basics was highly criticised but also seems to have high adoption. Now, according to the Economic Times it appears Aircel India has promised to give free, 64 kbps Internet to anyone in India. And it’s called….Free Basic Intenet. If you missed the differentiating “s”, you aren’t alone. . The good things is the service will only be available in a year – so Aircel’s marketing team has a year to come up with a different name.
But name confusion apart, this is great development. The speeds (64kbps) promised by Aircel is not high (it’s 2G internet). But it’s better than nothing. It appears they are trying to utilise their 2G spectrum as much as possible, eventually migrating users to their 4G offerings, since the promotion will only be only for 3 months of free access as above speeds.
Zero Rating 2G connectivity is one of the suggestions I made to TRAI in our response to TRAI’s Net Neutrality consultation paper. The idea was thanks to Steve Song who has been talking about something similar for a while now, and has recently distilled his thinking into a concrete proposal. And now it seems someone has done it. Steve says T-Mobile is also doing the same.
Many are arguing for banning Zero Rated content, specially Facebook’s Free Basics. I’ve always said competition in South Asia may mitigate potential harms. Plurality of service offerings, consumers picking winners. Could this be one way?