Zero-rating is also known as toll-free data or sponsored data. It’s where mobile network operators do not charge their customers for data used by specific applications or internet services through their network.

For end users, it’s a big win. Using a zero-rated app means they incur no data cost or deductions from their airtime balance. Even when users exhaust their SIM airtime balance, they can still freely use a zero-rated app.

The biNu App is Zero-rated

Eighteen months ago, biNu became zero-rated by Econet, the largest mobile network operator in Zimbabwe. At the time, we were working on another Econet project, EcoSchool, using biNu technology to deliver university textbooks on low-cost Android tablets, via a subscription pricing model.

By being zero-rated in Zimbabwe, we achieved viral growth of monthly active users, plus as much as 10x higher end-user engagement. Over 85% of users had Android smartphone devices.

We also achieved sustained usage growth by increasing the focus on providing locally relevant content. In Zimbabwe, this local content revolved around general news, plus soccer scores and news.

Zero-rating Key Learning

By removing the barrier of data cost affordability, you realize exponential usage growth. This is in terms of both the numbers of monthly active users, and increased user engagement.