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It was only a matter of time before Facebook launched its free internet service in South Africa, but it can now be confirmed that its launch partner for the service will be Cell C, the country’s third-largest mobile operator.
The service, aimed primarily at emerging markets, was first announced as far back as 2013 and has already been rolled out in a number of other African countries, including Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, and Ghana.
According to technology news site TechCentral, the deal is an extension of Cell C’s strategy of reaching out to over the top (OTT) players. The company already provides free access to WhatsApp for people on its network.
As part of the deal, Facebook usage will be free to all of Cell C’s existing post-paid contract, top up, and pre-paid customers from 1 July. This level of access will continue for a two month promotional period.
“Customers will be able to use Facebook Messenger, post comments and pictures, view and share posts and pictures, and view news feeds and profiles at no charge,” the site quotes the operator as saying.
From September meanwhile, users will be able to access Facebook using the Internet.org app for a period of 12 months. Throughout that same period, websites aligned with the Internet.org app will be freely available to Cell C customers.
Other sites available through the app include:
- Education: BeSmart, LoveWords, FunDza, Scholars4Dev, Wattpad, WorldReader, D-Siders
- Finance and jobs: Careers24, DAI, SmartBusiness, Money Matters
- Health: Health24, BabyCentre and MAMA, HIV360, Unicef Facts for Life
- Information: Bing, Cell C, WikiHow, Wikipedia
- Marketplaces: Gumtree, OLX
- News: BBC News, News24, SuperSport
- Women: Intel She Will Connect, Girl Effect, iLearn
While Internet.org has been widely lauded, it’s path hasn’t been entirely smooth, with some mobile operators saying they saw no reason why they should give away their network capacity to Facebook for free.