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Google, 8ta, launch ‘Free Internet zone’ in SA

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Google and 8ta today announced Free Zone powered by Google, which gives people access to mobile web search and feature-phone-friendly versions of Gmail and Google+ with zero data charges. The first page of a web site linked from search results is also provided at no data cost.

Free Zone aims to put the web in more people’s hands. First time Internet users who haven’t purchased data bundles often find basic services like email, mobile web browsing and social applications to be very expensive. Using Free Zone, feature phone users can use the power of the web to grow their businesses or keep in touch with friends and family without the fear of unknown data costs and make more informed choices about their next data device.

Luke Mckend, country manager of Google’s South African subsidiary, said: ‚”Given that data can be expensive for many of those in South Africa, the open web is only as open as it is affordable. Working alongside 8.ta on this exciting trial meant we could offer Internet services at no cost to anyone with a phone. This can only enrich lives, giving 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.‚”

Amith Maharaj, 8ta Senior Managing Executive, stated, ‚”Breaking down the barriers to internet adoption is critical for South Africa to keep up with the rest of world in terms of social and economic development. It is through key initiatives like these that these barriers can be reduced. To enable such benefits for our consumers requires flexible and cutting edge technology and billing systems. We are really proud to bring this particular innovation to South Africans. Effectively it means that all South Africans can have free access to Google Search, Google email and Google social networking by simply using any 8ta SIM card on any data enabled handset, no matter how old. This is a big deal.‚”

The following services are available for free from mobile phone browsers through Free Zone powered by Google:

The service is available immediately to all 8ta subscribers from their mobile phones at 8ta.com/freezone. 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.

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