48 Introduce Free WhatsApp Messaging. Does Sponsored Data Threaten Net Neutrality?

48 logo

Irish mobile network operator 48 have teamed up with WhatsApp to offer a 6 month deal whereby all 48 customers can avail of unlimited WhatsApp messaging for free.

If you are a 48 customer, you can send and receive as many WhatsApp messages as you want and none of your data allocation will be used up.

whatsapp logo

This free access to certain popular online services for customers of a particular internet service provider is known as "zero-rating" or "sponsored data". It means that applications or internet services such as WhatsApp, can essentially pay for the data to be used by customers of a network operator such as 48. This means that if you, as a consumer, use 100MB per month on WhatsApp, this 100MB will not count towards your data limit. 

The parties involved may claim that an online service or app paying a network for data on behalf of their users is harmless and creates a sort of win-win-win situation. However, this can result in operators driving users away from competitors who have not paid for the data used to access their service. 

This practice could lead to unfair competition and threaten Net Neutrality -the principle that internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications, regardless of the source and without favouring or blocking particular products or websites. For example, if Netflix offered to pay for access to their video content, that would make it very difficult for a new video streaming service to compete with them, particularly if the Netflix data gets allocated more bandwidth. 

This practice could lead to unfair competition and threaten Net Neutrality
net neutrality

App-underdogs and internet start-ups need not fear too much that they will be unable to compete with big players in a battle for internet traffic. No service will be stuck because it does not pay an additional fee to the internet service providers now that The European Parliament has just announced a new open-internet agreement that views all internet traffic as equal. Under the new EU rules, paid prioritisation will not be allowed.

The European Parliament has just announced a new open-internet agreement that views all internet traffic as equal.

According to the European Commission Press Release, "The EU will have the strongest and most comprehensive open Internet rules in the world, complete with strong end-user rights to ensure that subscribers get what they pay for. These rules will be a reality across all Member States as soon as the text officially applies on 30 April 2016."

These new EU-wide internet rules intend to level the playing field, allow for fair competition between online services and applications and lead the way for a single continental digital market. 

As a new app provider, we here at KillBiller can only hope that a single EU market will work in our favour on our path to world-domination -in being the #1 at finding you the best deal, of course.