Smart, a mobile telecommunication carrier in the Philippines, has in an almost unprecedented move announced that all their prepaid subscribers can now access the internet for free. The announcement was made at a large press conference by Manny V. Pangilinan, the chairman of Smart and its parent company PLDT.
“We are launching this initiative to provide a much larger number of Filipinos the opportunity to try out and experience the internet, enjoy its benefits and, as we at Smart like to say, live more,” said Mr. Pangilinan.
“This special offer is specifically designed to assist our prepaid subscribers who make up the bulk of our population. Many of them already have the mobile devices capable of accessing the internet but have yet to use them to go online. In this way, Smart can effectively promote digital inclusion and spread the benefits of the internet in the fastest and most effective way possible,” he added.
The carrier’s prepaid subscribers along with its partner carriers, Sun Cellular and Talk ‘N Text, that amount to a total of around 66 million will be able to access the internet with their data-enabled cellphones or smartphones to browse the internet, use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, use navigation apps like Waze and Google Maps, use transport apps like Uber and Easy Taxi, and other apps and services.
The only apps and services that aren’t included in the carrier’s free internet offer are peer-to-peer data uploads and downloads as well as VOIP and messaging services. Subscribers will also be limited to a data of 30MB.
“This special offer is in line with our advocacy of ‘Internet for All’,” said Orlando B. Vea, Smart’s chief wireless advisor.
According to the carrier, the free internet offer will last until the end of November 2014 but if it proves successful the carrier may extend the offer’s duration indefinitely. This move may spur a new trend among carriers around the world to provide low-bandwidth free internet access to their subscribers not just as a service to the community but also as a way to encourage customers into subscribing to larger data plans.