To start with I want to make a few disclaimers- I am in full support of net neutrality. I am no expert on net neutrality, but I have been actively following the topic since the TRAI paper came out.
I read an article by Nikhil from Medianama today- The Airtel Zero idea: Splitting India’s Internet into many Internets.
I know he has publicly stated his support for net neutrality and has done amazing work on it. I agree with most of his work and agree with his (and many others) concerns on Airtel Zero as well. Yes, it may split India’s internet into free and paid.
But, is the problem Airtel Zero or Splitting of Internet?
I wonder if all of us would share the same concern (splitting of Internet) if an OTT (any app) provides a platform similar to Airtel Zero? Imagine an app which helps the user surf other apps for free by subsidizing them.
Infact as Ashish wrote Airtel Zero is a great business idea and some startup tech company should work on it! Some are already very close to it. Apps like Cashboss, mCent, Cashon, Cashbox, Blee provide recharge credits for downloading and using apps.
A look at mCent’s description in Play store will give you a very clear idea.
“mCent is a great way to discover free Android apps and get rewarded with free airtime right on your mobile phone. In the last year, over 6 million people have earned enough mobile airtime to pay for900,000,000 MB of mobile data charges.”
The business model is very simple and similar to Airtel Zero. Apps like Flipkart, Snapdeal, Olx, Quikr etc can pay money to mCent and mCent in return passes it to the user as recharge to customers and ultimately subsidizes their usage. So in layman terms, companies pay marketing $ for the usage of their apps by customers.
The only difference in my opinion is Airtel Zero will have the ability to directly subsidize the user and mCent will indirectly subsidize the user.
Now imagine the below scenario, which I think mCent can start and offer a Airtel Zero type platform. [would love to know if someone is already doing it]
Lets talk of some of the reactions if mCent or any other tech company offers this service.
Millions of users will be using it which would mean companies would be spending marketing $ to get access to the user base
Great business model would mean lots of funding and amazing valuations [mCent has already raised US$15 mn from Publicis Groupe]
We would infact be talking about how these apps are bringing millions of first time users to internet for free in India and bringing in a digital revolution
We would all be saying that telecom players missed another opportunity and are sulking!
In favor of net neutrality, we can definitely argue that Airtel Zero should not have any unfair advantage over any of the OTTs mCent/Cashboss/Cashon.
So my question is whether we have a problem with AIRTEL ZERO or the OUTCOME of it?
[Follow Sandeep Reddy on Twitter: @hsrdce]