Mobile telecommunications giant Orange has launched a brand new service which it claims will make Facebook “accessible on every phone in Africa”.
The French-based company says that it will allow its subscribers across the continent to via USSD — a technology used by all GSM mobile devices to send information across a 2G network. It is already used widely in Africa for services such account information and callback services.
This means that even the most basic of handsets without an internet connection or data plan will be able to use the service.
Orange reckons that the familiarity with USSD services and the low barrier to entry means that the service could have as many as a million users in the first year.
The service has been available in Egypt since late 2011, where some 350 000 people connected in the first month.
Côte d’Ivoire will be the first country outside Egypt to receive the service.
Once connected to Facebook via USSD, customers can search for friends, invite friends, accept or deny friend requests, update their status and comment,like, or unlike their friend’s status’.
Xavier Perret, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at Orange reckons that “Social networks such as Facebook have completely changed how people stay in contact with their family and friends, and it’s important that our customers, regardless of the phone they have, are able to access and participate in these services”.
“We feel that it is our role to help our customers enjoy a digitally rich, connected life, and services such as Facebook via USSD this make that possible for even more of our customers,” he added.
This is not the first free service Orange has provided for the continent. It recently announced that it would be providing free access to Wikipedia to its subscribers across Africa and the Middle East.