Orange is launching a new service which will allow every customer in Africa to access Facebook on their mobile phones regardless of the phone they are using.
Facebook via USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) allows all Orange customers to access the service, including users with older or very basic handsets without an internet connection or data plan, so they will be able to stay in touch with their family and friends on Facebook through a simple and affordable text-based service.
USSD is a technology used by all GSM mobile devices to send information across a 2G network, and is already used widely in Africa for services such account information and callback services. As USSD is familiar in the region, and as there is no barrier in terms of handset requirements, Orangeexpects that over one million customers will use the service in the first year.
Orange launched this service at the end of 2011 for Mobinil customers in Egypt, and over 350,000 customers have connected Facebook via USSD in the first month. Today Orange is announcing the launch of the service in Orange Côte d'Ivoire this month, and that further markets in Orange’s African footprint will launch throughout 2012.
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This new service forms part of Orange’s strategy to help customers get more from their digital lives and provide access to mobile services such as Facebook to the widest possible range of customers. This is the latest in a series of services designed to open up access to digital services in emerging markets such Google SMS chat and email via SMS, and the exclusive Alcatel One Touch range of phones with deep Facebook integration.
“Social networks such as Facebook have completely changed how people stay in contact with their family and friends, and it’s important that our customers, regardless of the phone they have, are able to access and participate in these services,” said Xavier Perret, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at Orange. “We feel that it is our role to help our customers enjoy a digitally rich, connected life, and services such as Facebook via USSD this make that possible for even more of our customers.”
No special applications are required to use Facebook via USSD. Customers only need to type a specific code into their phone to open a Facebook via USSD session and enter a PIN code to access the service securely. If the customer is using Facebook via USSD for the first time, they will have to register by providing their Facebook login, Facebook password and by creating a PIN code.
Once connected to Facebook via USSD, customers can search for friends, invite friends, accept or deny friend requests, update their status and comment/like/unlike their friend’s status’. Customers will have the choice between four types of pricing: per session (10 to 20 minutes), daily, weekly and monthly. Exact bundles and tariffs will be confirmed by each country as the service comes to market.
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