Alibaba offers free data to aid mobile business

Updated: 2013-10-31 07:14

By Meng Jing (China Daily)

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With deep pockets and broad ambitions to boost its mobile business, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, China's e-commerce giant, is offering free data packages that will allow customers to shop with their cellphones or tablets.

The company announced on Wednesday that it will offer China Mobile Ltd users in Guangdong province and China United Netcom Ltd users in Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Hunan provinces free access to up to 2 gigabytes of data in November and December.

Mobile users in those areas can apply for the data package when using Alibaba's apps for the company's Taobao Marketplace,, Juhuasuan, Laiwang and Alipay.

Alibaba said in a news release that it might extend the program and expand it to other regions, depending on user feedback.

The company hopes the program will stimulate online shopping on mobile devices, especially with the annual online shopping festival, which falls on Nov 11. "Alibaba would be happy to pay the data fee for our customers who shop via mobile devices," said the company.

Last Nov 11, Alibaba's and achieved record sales of 19.1 billion yuan ($3.13 billion) within 24 hours.

Liu Xingliang, head of the Data Center of China Internet, a Beijing-based Internet research organization, said that by launching the program ahead of Nov 11, Alibaba will push more online shoppers to use mobile devices.

Wu Yongming, vice-president of Alibaba, who is in charge of the wireless division, said earlier that last Nov 11, about 960 million yuan of the company's sales were generated through its mobile Taobao app.

"Our goal for the upcoming online shopping festival is to more than double the record of last year," he said.

The free data package also applies to users of Laiwang, the company's mobile chatting app, which is aggressively competing with WeChat, the reigning mobile messaging service in China, owned by Tencent Holdings Ltd, Alibaba's rival.

Lu Jingyu, an analyst of the mobile Internet with iResearch Consulting Group, said the free data package is in line with the company's long-term mobile Internet strategy.

"It is clear that mobile Internet is the future, with more Chinese getting access to the Internet through mobile devices," Lu said.

She doubted that the free data package will help Alibaba's Laiwang shake WeChat's dominant market position.

WeChat has more than 400 million users, and most people in China's first-tier cities aren't price-sensitive enough to abandon a familiar app for some free data, Lu said.

"But the free data package may help Alibaba gain more fans in price-sensitive second- or third-tier cities, which still lack basic Internet infrastructure, such as Wi-Fi," Lu said.