Telecom service provider Aircel Ltd has signed a three-year agreement with Wikimedia Foundation to offer free access to Wikipedia on mobile phone to Aircel's 60 million subscriber base. As part of the partnership, Aircel subscribers will be able to access zero.wikipedia.com (text only) and m.wikipedia.com (mobile version) for free on their internet-capable phones in 17 languages, including English, Hindi and Tamil.
The partnership is part of the Wikimedia Foundation's Wikipedia Zero program, which focuses on providing free internet access to people on their mobile devices. Prior to India, the service was launched in 16 countries such as Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia in partnership with various mobile operators. The initiative has reached to around 470 million mobile users so far.
"With the partnership, we extend our programme to India where we will potentially reach millions of people for the first time," said Kul Takanao Wadhwa, head of mobile, Wikimedia Foundation.
Aircel earlier introduced various data products like 'pocket internet smart' and 'pocket internet 24' that offers internet at less than 1 rupee a day to users; hence adding a service like Wikipedia to its internet offerings makes sense. The mobile penetration in India is around 867 million subscribers, but the internet audience in India is only 77 million people, according to the latest comScore report. This means that there is a large opportunity for the market to grow.
Innoz Technologies Pvt Ltd ,a Bangalore-based startup that offers a mobile-based search service for basic mobile phones with no internet access, already provides access to Wikipedia via SMS. However, Innoz Technologies' service is not free.
(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)