Orange bringing Facebook to all phones in Africa

Orange is bringing Facebook via Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) to Africa. The service allows users to access the social network from phones without Internet or a data service.

Mobile phone operator Orange today announced it is bringing Facebook via Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) to provide cheap mobile access to Facebook for an even wider range of customers, especially those located in Africa. Facebook via USSD allows all Orange customers to access the social network, regardless of whether they are using a feature phone or a smartphone. In other words, even users with older or very basic handsets without an Internet connection or data plan can use Facebook via the text-based service.

No special applications are required to use Facebook via USSD. First you type a specific code into your phone to open a Facebook via USSD session, and then you enter a second PIN code to access the service securely. If you're using Facebook via USSD for the first time, you will have to register by providing your Facebook login, Facebook password, and by creating a PIN code. Once connected, you can search for friends, invite friends, accept or deny friend requests, update your status, and comment/like/unlike your friends' statuses. Pricing options include: per session (10 to 20 minutes), daily, weekly, and monthly.

USSD is a technology used by all GSM mobile devices to send information across a 2G network, and is already used widely in Africa. Since USSD is already familiar in the region, and there is no barrier in terms of handset requirements, Orange expects that over 1 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 used Facebook via USSD in the first month. This month, Orange is launching the service in Côte d'Ivoire, and says it will come to further markets in Orange's African footprint throughout 2012.

"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," Xavier Perret, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at Orange, said in a statement. "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."

Orange's Facebook Page has over 156,000 Likes.

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