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Google targets India's 2G users

News, 29 September 2016

NEW DELHI: India's mobile operators are engaged in a price war, offering low-cost data packs to entice 3G and 4G internet users, but Google is focused on the much greater number of 2G users across the country.

Reliance Jio, which launched earlier this month, has led the way in slashing data costs, with its initial offer of three months of free services followed by free calls and data plans charging as little as Rs 50 per gigabyte.

Bharti Airtel followed suit with a special 4G data pack at matching rates, and at the start of this week Vodafone India announced that it would be offering customer with a new 4G smartphone 10GB of data for the price of 1GB for a three-month period.

But while 4G-enabled handsets are increasingly common – CyberMedia Research has estimated that 100m will be sold this year – the same cannot yet be said of the relevant network technology.

For example, some of the attractive headline offers come hedged about with restrictions. While Vodafone's customers with 4G handsets in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata will be able to use their data plan at any time, those subscribers in 3G circles can only use the free data between midnight and 6am, the Economic Times reported.

While welcoming the introduction of 4G services, Google has a different perspective: "The people willing to pay for data are already online," noted Caesar Sengupta, vice president, Next Billion Users at Google.

"Now, if you want to expand to the remaining 800m users, we have to figure out ways where they can eke more out of the data they have. That is why it is important to get our apps working on low data more efficiently."

To that end, Google has introduced new offline features for its Chrome browser and faster loading in Google Play on 2G, Afaqs! reported.

The internet giant is also exploring the creation of wi-fi hotspots at railways stations, malls and other public areas. And later this year it plans to launch Allo, its messaging app, with a Hindi-speaking AI assistant.

Data sourced from Afaqs!, Economic Times, Indian Express; additional content by Warc staff