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Aircel to offer free Internet across India at 64 kbps


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In a bid to increase mobile Internet usage, telecom operator Aircel has started a new programme called Free Basic Internet where it will provide free access to the web for all users across India at 64 kbps (note that this should not be confused with Facebook’s Net Neutrality violating Free Basics platform. Come on guys you can get better names), reports the Press Trust of India.

Speaking to the publication, Aircel chief marketing officer Anupam Vasudev said that the company will be rolling out the service first in Tamil Nadu and across the country in a year.  The company added that for new customers the service is free for the first three months. After 3 months, if users continue to be active, the Free Basic Internet service will be complimentary for those who recharge for at least Rs 150 in a month. Aircel does not mention if existing data customers can move to this plan.

The report added that data contributes to 14% of the company’s total revenue which it expects to increase to 30% in three years given the surge in demand for video entertainment on mobile phones.

MediaNama’s take

It needs to be noted that 64 kbps is data speed is working on 2G spectrum. While giving free access at lower speeds is a nice sentiment, the experience of surfing on mobile web will be diminished for many sites as they are not optimized to 2G speeds. It remains to be seen how many users Aircel can convert into 3G users via the initiative.

It’s worth noting that in February, Aircel was unable to secure new spectrum in the March auctions this year as it was disqualified from bidding as it did not meet the minimum net worth requirement of Rs 100 crore. So this might a case of utilizing its existing spectrum more efficiently as 3G service would require more contiguous spectrum.

4G rollout

In September, Aircel said that it would launch mass market 4G LTE services by December this year. The operator has 20 MHz spectrum in 2300 MHz (4G) band in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Assam and parts of the North East and Jammu & Kashmir. It launched commercial 4G services in 6 of its 8 enterprise circles, where it said it had a large customer base.  Aircel had secured 4G spectrum in eight circles, during the BWA auctions in June 2010. After postponing its 4G rollout to 2014 from 2013, Aircel had appointed ZTE Corporation for pan-India deployment of its 4G LTE network in January last year.

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Tech Mahindra tie up

Earlier this month, Aircel partnered with Tech Mahindra for rolling out Internet of Things services. According to the company, this will include solutions for smart energy, connected vehicles and smart cities. Other than this Tech Mahindra would partner with Aeris Communications to provide Aeris GPS, an IoT service delivery platform. Note that Aeris currently provides various IoT services for enterprises and telecom operators, most of which are ‘middle-men’ solutions like cloud storage, a cellular network to communicate over, analytics and billing services.

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  • Nilesh Trivedi

    > many sites as they are not optimized to 2G speeds.

    It goes both ways. Sites will have an incentive to optimize for 2G speeds if there are many customers who are accessing them only on 2G. I’m not saying that 2G is good enough, but saying that user experience is as much a responsibility of website owners as it is of the telcos.