Feeds

Google launches third-world mobile web land grab

Aims to corner 'next billion users' with Free Zone

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

Google has chosen the Philippines as the first country in which to try out Google Free Zone, a new program aimed at getting phone users in developing nations onto the mobile internet by way of the search giant's ad-supported online properties.

The service, which Google launched on Thursday in partnership with wireless carrier Globe Telecom, allows any customer on Globe's network with an internet-capable phone to access Google Search, GMail, and Google+ for free, even if they haven't subscribed to a mobile data plan.

They can even view third-party websites that show up in Google's search results at no charge. Click on any other links, however, and they're redirected to a screen instructing them to purchase mobile data from Globe.

According to a Reuters report, Free Zone is mainly aimed at users of so-called feature phones, which are popular for making phone calls and sending SMS messages but aren't often used to access the internet – something the Chocolate Factory hopes to change.

Naturally, Google and Globe are betting that once users get in the habit of accessing the internet on their mobile phones, they'll eventually upgrade to more fully featured smartphones – and more lucrative data plans.

"[Google Free Zone is] 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 Google product manager AbdelKarim Mardini.

Google says it plans to roll out Free Zone in other countries soon, but launching its pilot program in the Philippines was a shrewd choice. According to 2011 data from the World Bank, the mobile phone market in the Philippines is already saturated, with 101 mobile cellular subscriptions for every 100 people.

While 97 per cent of Filipinos were using SMS messaging as of 2011, however, only 9.8 per cent were using the mobile internet. And both figures are even lower when the data is limited to just the lower-middle-income group – the same group Google is targeting with Free Zone.

And then, of course, there's the all-important ad market. According to the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP), online ad spending in the country currently accounts for a paltry 0.2 per cent of the total, and mobile ads aren't faring much better.

Color us cynical, but we here at The Reg's California aerie think that makes Free Zone a terrific double opportunity for Google, because if there's one thing the Chocolate Factory does even better than search the web, it's sling ads.

By offering its online services as de facto gateways to free internet access for entire nations, Google gains brand awareness and user retention the likes of which marketing alone can't buy. It also gains new markets for its ad-serving networks, effectively launching entire online advertising industries where previously there were none – and cornering them at the same time.

What? You didn't really think there was such a thing as free internet access, did you? ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
So, Apple won't sell cheap kit? Prepare the iOS garden wall WRECKING BALL
It can throw the low cost race if it looks to the cloud
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
Shoot-em-up: Sony Online Entertainment hit by 'large scale DDoS attack'
Games disrupted as firm struggles to control network
BT customers face broadband and landline price hikes
Poor punters won't be affected, telecoms giant claims
Netflix swallows yet another bitter pill, inks peering deal with TWC
Net neutrality crusader once again pays up for priority access
EE: STILL Blighty's best mobe network, says 'Frappucino' Moore
Fresh round of network stats fisticuffs possibly on the cards here
US TV stations bowl sueball directly at FCC's spectrum mega-sale
Broadcasters upset about coverage and cost as they shift up and down the dials
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?