Talking about consistently changing the rules of the game. TataDoCoMo, which came into the limelight with their pay-per-second billing plans and marketing blitz, has now expanded its BuddyNet service to include free GPRS access to social networks Orkut, Facebook, Twitter and Nimbuzz, apart from professional networking site LinkedIn.Embedded applications and external URLs/Links will be charged at Re. 0.1/kb), and users will have to pay to subscribe to BuddyNet.

This initiative is in line with a similar move I’d suggest for 3G: that telecom operators should make GPRS access free for a limited in order to encourage GPRS usage, the way they did many years ago with SMS.

And this is a limited offer:

— Time Limit: It is valid only till May 15, 2010, and there’s a Fair Usage Policy (ugh) limit for these specific sites of 2GB per month.
— (Un)Fair Usage Limit: Albeit large, there is still a large “fair usage” limit a month. Then again, if you’re using up 2G a month on the low bandwidth mobile sites of these social networks, frankly, you need help (or a life).
— Still No Internet Telephony: The other thing to note is that Tata Docomo continues to block access to Internet Telephony access on Nimbuzz. Enabling free VoIP on Nimbuzz would eat into Tata DoCoMo’s voice revenues, which they wouldn’t want to risk.
No Indian sites: Any guesses why there aren’t any Indian sites in the list? Perhaps because Indian social networks just aren’t popular enough.

According to the latest Opera State of the Mobile Web report, the 10 most popular sites accessed using Opera (mobile) in India are:
1. google.com
2. orkut.com
3. facebook.com
4. wikipedia.org
5. yahoo.com
6. youtube.com
7. songs.pk
8. zedge.net
9. cricinfo.com
10. wap.in

As such, this is part of Tata DoCoMo’s massive sign-up drive. BuddyNet, which will cost Rs. 7 per week, offers users on the network the ability to call other BuddyNet members at 1p/6sec, STD calls at 1p/2 sec, gifting a recharge to other DoCoMo customers, and share talktime with buddies. The idea here is to create an interlinked community that benefits from being on the same network, hence increasing network utilization, at the same time, less willing to churn out since they would simultaneously lose the benefits. It’s a like a social network by itself: you’re less likely to churn out if all your friends are there.

P.s.: Just for the record, Tata DoCoMo advertisements get on my nerves. Nothing makes me change TV channels quicker.

Related:
How Telecom Operators In India Should Approach 3G
Tata Docomo launches BuddyNet
Virgin Mobile Launches VChatter With Nimbuzz; Internet Telephony?