MTN says zero chance of Facebook Zero

Despite providing access to Facebook Zero in seven African countries where it operates, international mobile service provider MTN has no plans to make the data-charge free version available to South African mobile users any time soon.

In a brief statement released to on Thursday, MTN dashed any hopes that local users may have had of being able to access Facebook Zero, the new mobile offering from the social networking giant.

Citing the fact that they were choosing to focus all of their energies on the FIFA World Cup 2010, the service provider said they “decided to opt out of this venture and focus all their attention on the best FIFA experience ever.”

Facebook Zero is a new incarnation of Facebook that is geared specifically for the mobile market and targeted at consumers in the lower-income brackets. A recognition that affordability and speed are two of the main obstacles that users in emerging markets encounter when accessing Facebook through their phones, led the company to develop the new site.

According to the official Facebook blog, “this is a new mobile site that includes all of the key features of Facebook but is optimised for speed. It initially is available through more than 50 mobile operators in 45 countries and territories with zero data charges.”

The new site allows users to do everything they can through the regular Facebook mobile site, but does not include any photos, which dramatically improves the speed at which it works. Users need to actively click on a photo link to be taken to a site where the photos are available.

Facebook has also collaborated with its mobile operator partners to make access to the site completely free. Users will only pay the data charges when they choose to leave the site by accessing the photos.

With over 100-million subscribers already accessing Facebook through their mobile phones, this development will pave the way for increased traffic in a world where mobile access plays an increasingly central role.

MTN is offering the new service in a number of African countries at this stage, including Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Rwanda, Sudan, Swaziland and Uganda.



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