Tata Docomo Offers Sponsored WhatsApp Access in Mumbai

Tata Docomo in India now offers unlimited and sponsored usage of WhatsApp on some postpaid plans offered to customers in Mumbai.

Separately, Tata Docomo also offers separate plans with access to YouTube at discounted rates. Data plans for the “YouTube Recharge” cost half that of regular data access.

Both types of packages are examples of sponsored access, where an Internet service provider makes available one particular app at no incremental charge, or prices mobile Internet access in ways that offer huge discounts for use of a particular application.

Those examples, one might well argue, show the downside of efforts to constrain the ways ISPs enable Internet access for customers. “Equal treatment of apps,” the way network neutrality supporters now describe efforts to restrict consumer Internet access to “best effort only” modes, also prevents ISPs from providing value to potential users.

The sponsored data approach makes a few highly-popular apps available, either at no incremental cost or for highly-discounted prices, to encourage use of mobile Internet access.

In many countries, network neutrality therefore is an anti-consumer move that limits widespread access to the most-popular apps, and therefore also slows wider adoption of the Internet overall, as people who can see the value of one app likely will come to see the value of other apps.

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