Telecel to partner Facebook for free internet service

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Recently we shared information about the plans that are  underway to introduce Zimbabweans to Free Basics, the zero-rated internet service from Facebook’s Internet.org.

In the latest bit of information to be shared about the service, it has been confirmed that Telecel is the mobile operator that will be partnering with Facebook and Internet.org for the launch in the Zimbabwe. This information was shared by sources working on the Free Basics implementation.

This means tht once Free Basics is launched in Zimbabwe, Telecel broadband will have free access to all the local sites that are registering their sites for the service, as well as the other international platforms, which include Facebook, that are available on very Free Basics bouquet.

In every market where it is launched Free Basics works through partnerships with mobile network operators which are willing to offer zero-rated access to the selected sites signed up for the Free Basics platform.

Telecel, which, by subscriber numbers, is the smallest of the three Zimbabwean mobile network operators, has likely been sold onto the concept because of the opportunity that Free Basics provides in driving Zimbabweans onto its network for access to this internet freebie.

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Once loyalty is cultivated, the hope would be that these same subscribers also access other broadband services through Telecel while maintaining use of their Telecel lines for other mobile network services.

In terms of appreciating zero rated content and its downstream benefits, Telecel is familiar with these dynamics. In May 2014, it introduced the Facebook Zero service which afforded all of its mobile broadband subscribers free access to a stripped down version of Facebook, something similar to the Free Basics proposition.

Interestingly, Econet, the country’s largest mobile operator and provider of broadband services, passed on the Free Basics opportunity, something that seems to have been influenced the complications that would have arisen because of Econet’s own plays at offering zero-rated access to its own services like Ownai and Econet Zero.

These services are already leaning on the competitive advantage of free access for Econet broadband subscribers, and a play at Free Basics would have meant extending that same advantage to services that compete with these Econet services.

Such consequences of conditional free access and unfair advantages for zero-rated sites and applications are what have fueled the backlash that free Basics has experienced in countries like India and Egypt where it has been put on hold.

By offering free access to some parts of the internet and not all of it, the service has been sucked into the net neutrality debate, prompting action from telecoms and internet services regulators to shut it down. With Telecel, a State controlled operator signing up for the service, Zimbabwe won’t face the same fate.

5 Comments

  1. anonymous says:

    ‘More than once King Lobengula compared his position to that of a fly in front of a chameleon that “advances slowly and gently, one leg at a time until he finally darts out his tongue.” ‘
    (quote from http://www.bulawayo1872.com/history/lobengula_FallofaKing.htm)

    While our narrow sighted siblings are crying #RhodesMustFall no one sees the new freaking colonial mammoth in the room.

    I’ll explain why it’s colonialism. The internet is an ecosystem. Facebook wants to be at apex but is running out of food. If they plant seeds (free services biased to them) in the long run they will reap the benefits. But by grabbing tracts of real estate they are stifling the natural growth of other solutions.

    1. Tonton says:

      Interesting take on this..

  2. macd chip says:

    Typical, What a liberty!!

    When Econet did the same with tengai.co.zw, everyone was up in arms fighting. But hey, facebook comes and propose something worse than tengai.co.zw, no one is complaining!!

    Econet is a local company promoting its products locally for direct benefit of people here in Zim. Facebook, like Econet, is looking to do business, to name its service as free internet is purely smoke and mirrors.

    It goes on to show the danger of NGO foreign donor mentality which is now deep rooted in our society.

    If its local = thrush it, oppose it, hire mercenaries

    If its foreign = embrace it, welcome all with open hands and closed mind

  3. Dhikondo says:

    One wise man once said, no such thing as free lunch

  4. Ruvie says:

    i cant wait to support the local version facebook (hiclicker.com and wanguzim.com) . these are real innovators of all time, they should do the same with local telecom’s operators. lets support a zimbabwean “mark zuckerbergs”

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