Globe Telecom, in association with Google, launched on Thursday, November 8, a new service called Free Zone in a move that will see millions of people get free access to Google’s services from any Internet-capable handset.
Free Zone, a joint project between the search giant and the Philippine telecoms carrier, allows basic handsets or feature phones with Internet access to use Google products and services such as Search, Gmail, and Google+ gratis. It provides free access to websites shown on Google’s search results page, but prompts users to subscribe to Globe Telecom’s data plan if they want to visit websites beyond the results page.
“Search for anything on Google, email on the go with Gmail, and share your latest experiences on Google+ ALL for FREE via libre.ph, anytime you need it, when you want it,” says Globe Telecom in a promotional ad entitled ‘Free Zone powered by Google’ on its website.
To access Free Zone users need to have an Internet-capable phone and a Google account. Those without Google accounts can easily sign up and create one by following the ‘Create an account now’ link on their mobile phones. Subscribers may also register through http://g.co/FreeZone on a computer.
Globe Prepaid and TM subscribers are free to use the service until March 31, 2013. They can avail the promo by texting LIBRE to 8888 or visit libre.ph using their phone’s default browser. Internet access through third party browsers such as Opera Mini is not supported, and it will only incur data charges based on the carrier’s terms.
“Note that you’ll see an advise-of-charge page each time you try to click on a link which leads you to a chargeable page. If you don’t see that warning, you’re within Free Zone and not being charged,” says Globe on its FAQs page.
The launch of Free Zone in the Philippines marks the start of Google’s ‘next billion users’ project. While Filipinos are keen early adopters of mobile phones, millions still use outdated handsets devoid of Internet services or are reluctant to pay for expensive services.
“It’s aimed at the next billion users of the Internet, many of whom will be in emerging markets and encounter the Internet first on a mobile phone, without ever owning a PC,” said AbdelKarim Mardini, product manager, Google, in a statement to Reuters.
Google and Globe Telecom are not the only players in the Philippines targeting non-smartphone users and providing cheaper access to Internet services.
Smart Communications, the archrival of Globe Telecom, said the half million users who signed up to its budget-friendly Internet service spent 150 percent more on average per month compared with its other subscribers.
For more information about Free Zone, go here.