France Telecom’s Orange service provider announced that the social network will soon available on any phone within its footprint across the continent, potentially giving Facebook’s mobile user count a huge boost.
Orange, which operates in 20 countries in Africa, with some 70 million subscribers, launched a technology known as unstructured supplementary service data (USSD), which requires low enough bandwidth to allow feature phones, even those without Internet service or data plans, to access a scaled-down, text version of Facebook.
The company said accessing Facebook via USSD does not require an application, and its customers only need to type a specific code to start sessions, followed by PIN codes to access the service securely.
After an initial activation, upon which they must provide their Facebook login information, Orange customers will be able to search for friends, invite friends, accept or deny friend requests, update their status, and comment on or like status updates from their friends.
Orange will offer four pricing options: per session (10 minutes to 20 minutes), daily, weekly, and monthly, with more details to be revealed as the service is rolled out.
The mobile carrier launched the USSD service in Egypt at the end of last year, and more than 350,000 customers of Egyptian service provider Mobinil used it to connect to the social network within its first month.
Orange Côte d’Ivoire will be the first Orange unit in Africa to launch the service, in Ivory Coast later this month, and other regions in the continent will be added throughout the year.
Orange Vice President of Strategic Partnerships Xavier Perret said:
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. We feel that it is our role to help our customers enjoy a digitally rich, connected life, and services such as Facebook via USSD make that possible for even more of our customers.