Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s aspiring free internet plans, is viewed cautiously by Airtel’s chief Sunil Mittal. Chief of India’s one of biggest telecom companies raised concerns over the future of the telecom firms asserting that the companies should instead do “philanthropy” if they won’t be charging for mobile internet services, according to a report from the Times of India.
Free internet: will it really help?
The social networking giant has initiated an ‘internet.org’ program in which consumers access free internet free if they happen to have a partner telecom operator. The basis of this ambitious program is the belief that providing free internet will, in turn, attract more consumers to take up the service, which eventually will be good for the industry. In the line of this assumption of Mittal agrees that such an attempt will expand the industry, but, also, reflected on the need of telecom operators to collect revenue.
Mittal said that during his meet with Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the Mobile World Congress, “I told him (Zuckerberg) that you are right that this (internet.org) expands the market. At the end, you must understand that we (telecom operators) need to charge you for something.”
Adding that the telecom companies are not making so much money, Mittal said, “If you are going to make the data free, then let’s do completely philanthropic projects.”
While in India Airtel chief is opposing the initiative, but for “internet.org” initiative, Airtel Africa is one of the partners of Facebook. In India, the social networking firm has teamed up with Reliance Communications for the program, says the report from TOI.
Vodafone CEO holds a similar view
This claim was reinforced by Vodafone Global CEO Vittorio Colao, who at World Mobile Congress, criticized the Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) CEO’s free of charge internet program, saying “it is almost like Zuckerberg does philanthropy, but with my money.”
Further Mr. Mittal warned telecom operators against the “cannibalizing” modus-operandi of internet-based messaging and calling services for collecting revenues, and feared that this would lead to a reduction in investment in mobile networks by the industry.
“He (Zuckerberg) is saying that make Internet.org lite version of Facebook free of data charge, so that people will upgrade. People will come to internet for the first time. The point is that it is self-serving for them,” Mittal said.