Google, in collaboration with mobile network operator 8ta, has announced “Free Zone” — a project that allows users with an 8ta sim card to access the web for free.
Free Zone is powered by Google, which means that users can access almost all Google products with no data costs. The service, which Google says is an African first, is available to mobile phone users only.
8ta’s senior Managing Executive Amith Maharaj reckons that it is critical to break down “barriers to internet adoption” in South Africa in order “to keep up with the rest of world in terms of social and economic development”.
The current cost of data in the country is also part of the motivation for this new service, which Google also recently rolled out in the Philippines with mobile operator Glo. South Africa is the second country in the world where this service has been launched.
“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”, says Google South Africa’s country manager Luke Mckend.
McKend reckons that the new service “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.”
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 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.
Free Zone is available 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.