Google offers free Internet service to South African mobile users

googleAs part of the Free Zone deal, subscribers to Telkom’s 8ta mobile phone service will be able to access the web free of cost. (Image source: methodshop.com/Flickr)Google has entered into a deal with South African telecoms operator, Telkom, to offer free Internet to mobile phone subscribers who cannot afford data costs

As part of the deal, dubbed “Free Zone,” subscribers to Telkom’s 8ta mobile phone service will be able to access the web and versions of Gmail and Google+ without paying for data charges, as long as they have data-enabled handsets.

Google South Africa manager, Luke Mckend, told AFP, “Around 80 per cent of South Africans have a cell phone, and much of this mobile resource is untapped due to data charges that many cannot afford.

“Many mobile phone users find data charges for email, web browsing and social applications, to be too expensive and our goal is to make more of the mobile web affordable for everyone.”

Google has launched a similar deal with a mobile phone provider in the Philippines earlier this month.

8ta senior managing executive, Amith Maharaj, said the idea was directed at helping South Africa, the wealthiest country on the continent, keep pace with the rest of the developed world.

“Breaking down the barriers to Internet adoption is critical for South Africa to keep up with the rest of the world in terms of socio-economic development,” said Maharaj.

A World Bank study has suggested that a 10 per cent rise in Internet use could result in one per cent increase in GDP.

Maharaj said, “Now 8ta subscribers can enjoy a free value added service to explore the Internet, check emails and connect with friends, ultimately boosting internet adoption in South Africa.”

The deal will be on trial until the end of May next year.

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