Have a quick read of this update from Telenor:
Telenor Group has now entered into an agreement with U2opia Mobile, an innovator in social Internet and mobile convergence, to bring Facebook to its millions of non-Internet connected customers via USSD. USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) is a low bandwidth data service that allows you to send information on a 2G network with no Internet connectivity.
As Telenor’s new partner, U2opia Mobile is sharing its “Facebook by Fonetwish” platform with Telenor customers – starting in India, followed by Malaysia and Bangladesh before the year end. Facebook by Fonetwish is easy to use, fast and affordable for both customers and operators, as it is text-based and uses very little bandwidth. There are no handset requirements to use this type of service. This means that a 10+ year old phone with no Internet and/or GPRS connectivity can still use USSD to send and receive information.
Very, very smart and potentially very useful for millions and millions of customers who don’t currently have a ‘smart’ feature phone. But it’s not just about devices, it’s about affordability. Untold millions can’t realistically afford to splash the (sometimes large amounts of) cash on a standard data connection.
It’s not just about social networks either. Customers will reportedly be able to query Wikipedia at absolutely no charge (although I imagine you’ll need to have a Telenor account in good standing).
I’m interested to understand precisely how this will work. The announcement gives an indication:
To get Facebook via USSD, Telenor subscribers simply dial *325# or *fbk# to start. A username and password is required. Once logged on, the user is presented with a menu of Facebook options: browse newsfeed, update status, post on walls, view friend requests, send friend request, send messages and view notifications. Telenor’s Indian operator, Uninor, rolled out a beta version of Facebook by Fonetwish in September this year, charging Rs20 per month ($0.39/mo) for unlimited access.
I suspect it will function much like those sim ‘apps’ that you often find embedded on to handsets supplied by operators.
$0.39 a month is, I reckon, good enough to encourage a lot of people to begin at least experimenting with mobile data services. In time they can be pushed to full data services.
Good work Telenor!