Google + and Gmail on Airtel phones taking on Facebook

Airtel has launched Free Zone powered by Google. Google+ competes with social media major Facebook.

Airtel mobile customers can access mobile web search and feature-phone-friendly versions of Gmail and Google+ in India.

Google + is struggling to create its presence in the Indian market, whereas Facebook is growing significantly thanks to the rapid growth of 3G and 2G internet in the country. Recently, several operators slashed the data price on 2G network.

As part of the deal between Airtel and Google, the first page of a website linked from search results is provided at no data cost.

However, the service is not completely free to mobile users. While Airtel subscribers will not incur any data charges to access these services on Free Zone powered by Google, access to more advanced services such as Attachment Download or browse through to web sites from the ones accessed in the Free Zone would be enabled through the subscription to a standard data package.

There will be no bill shocks. The telecom operator says it will inform mobile users when users leave the Free Zone to navigate deeper into a website or download an attachment they are informed about the data charges and given the option to purchase an appropriate data package.

“In this market, where feature phones predominate, our association with Google to bring Free Zone to India will encourage millions of users to discover the power of mobile internet for the very first time and leverage the amazing world of information search, email and social collaboration – at no incremental cost,” said N Rajaram, chief marketing officer – Consumer Business, Bharti Airtel.

Airtel has 189 million plus mobile customers in India. Its 2G and 3G data users are increasing.

Free Zone aims to put the web in the hands of more people and empower first time Internet users. Airtel users can create a Gmail account instantly on the Free Zone homepage.

“The mobile Internet user base is growing really fast in India. Working with Airtel on this exciting trial means that we can offer Internet services at no cost to anyone with a phone,” said Rajan Anandan, VP and managing director, Google India.

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