Aircel’s partnership with Wikimedia Foundation comes on the back of similar deals inked by major telecom operators in the country with companies such as Facebook by providing free or discounted access to the social network for their subscribers. Photo:  Pradeep Gaur/Mint (Pradeep Gaur/Mint)
Aircel’s partnership with Wikimedia Foundation comes on the back of similar deals inked by major telecom operators in the country with companies such as Facebook by providing free or discounted access to the social network for their subscribers. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
(Pradeep Gaur/Mint)

Aircel to offer free access to Wikipedia

Pages of Wikipedia will be available free of cost to 470 million phone users after the Aircel partnership

Hyderabad: Telecom operator Aircel Ltd is partnering Wikimedia Foundation, which administers online encyclopedia Wikipedia, to offer free access to the website to its 60 million subscribers.

This is the first such partnership by an Indian telecom operator with non-profit Wikimedia Foundation’s Wikipedia Zero initiative that endeavours to deliver free knowledge to people in developing countries by providing access to Wikipedia from mobile devices at no cost.

Low-cost mobile phones with Internet access have helped bridge the divide between digital haves and have-nots, increasing access to the Internet in developing countries. India has the second largest mobile user base in the world with over 867 million subscribers, 77 million of whom have access to the Internet, according to data from Internet analytics company comScore Inc.

Aircel’s partnership with Wikimedia Foundation comes on the back of similar deals inked by major telecom operators in the country with companies such as Facebook by providing free or discounted access to the social network for their subscribers.

“With the partnership, we extend our programme to India where we potentially reach millions of people for the first time," Kul Takanao Wadhwa, head of the mobile division at the Wikimedia Foundation, said in a statement.

Pages of Wikipedia, the fifth most visited website globally, will be available free of cost to 470 million phone users in developing countries after the Aircel partnership. India will join Russia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and some countries in Africa, Southeast Asia and West Asia under the Wikipedia Zero initiative, which aims to bring down the barriers to accessing information.

The arrangement between Aircel and Wikimedia ensures free access to versions of the global encyclopedia, containing 25 million articles contributed by about 80,000 volunteers across the world, in 20 languages including English, Hindi and 18 other Indic languages.

“Through our alliance with the Wikimedia Foundation, Aircel is not only making Internet services reach a wider audience, but also helps encourage and enrich the lives of our customers by offering access to knowledge and information free of cost," said Anupam Vasudev, chief marketing officer of Aircel said.

Telecom operators under the programme do not collect any data charges from their subscribers as per the terms of the partnership, and in return are incentivized by Wikimedia Foundation that places a text-only banner on top of the Wikipedia page, displaying the network provider’s name.

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