Google and 8ta today at G-South Africa in Cape Town announced Free Zone powered by Google, which gives people access to mobile web search and feature-phone-friendly versions of Gmail and Google+ with zero data charges. The first page of a website linked from search results is also provided at no data cost.
Free Zone aims to put the web in the hands of more people. First time Internet users who haven’t purchased data bundles often find basic services like email, mobile web browsing and social applications to be very expensive. Using Free Zone, feature phone users can use the power of the web to grow their businesses or keep in touch with friends and family without the fear of unknown data costs and make more informed choices about their next data device.
Luke Mckend, Country Manager, Google South Africa, said: “Given that data can be expensive for many South Africans, the open web is only as open as it is affordable. Working with 8ta on this exciting trial means that we can offer Internet services at no cost to anyone with a phone. This gives people easier access to information in a way that benefits everyone, whether it’s an individual or a small business that wants to reach more people on the web.”
Amith Maharaj, 8ta Senior Managing Executive, stated, “Breaking down the barriers to Internet adoption is critical for South Africa to keep up with the rest of world in terms of social and economic development. It is through key initiatives like these that these barriers can be reduced. To enable such benefits for our consumers requires flexible and cutting edge technology and billing systems. We are really proud to bring this particular innovation to South Africans. Effectively it means that all South Africans can have access to Google Search, Google email and Google social networking by simply using any 8ta SIM card on any data enabled handset, no matter how old, free of charge. This is a big deal.”
The following services are available for free from mobile phone browsers through Free Zone powered by Google:
- Gmail: Users have unlimited access to Gmail from their mobile browser. If users click on a link or attachment within the email they are directed to a page where they can purchase a data package.
- Google+: Users can share photos and messages with circles of family, selected friends or the public; follow updates on the things they are passionate about – from football to photography, music to news; and follow people they’re interested in.
- Google Search: Users can search the entire Internet and access the first page of websites from the results for free. If they click further into a website after that, they are directed to a page where they can purchase a data package.
The service is available immediately to all 8ta subscribers from their mobile phones at freezone.google.com. Users without a Gmail account can sign up for free. When users leave the Free Zone to navigate deeper into a website or download an attachment they are informed about the data charges and given the option to purchase an appropriate data package. The service will be trialled until 31 May 2013.