U2opia Launches Fonetwish Service For Facebook Access on Airtel without Internet or GPRS

Posted by author On Friday, May 20, 2011 0 comments

U2opia Mobile, a Singapore-based mobile solutions provider has launched Fonetwish, a platform for accessing Facebook via USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) in partnership with telecom provider Airtel. The service has been developed jointly with Facebook and it’s the first of its kind.
USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) is a menu-based system that allows interfacing with content based services. Unlike a normal browser, the USSD menu acts as browser to pull content to the phone, hence it does so without using the internet or activating GPRS capabilities.

Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) is a protocol used by GSM cellular telephones to communicate with the service provider's computers. USSD can be used for WAP browsing, prepaid callback service, mobile-money services, location-based content services, menu-based information services, and as part of configuring the phone on the network.

Example USSD codes:
After entering a USSD code on your GSM handset, the reply from the GSM operator is displayed within a few seconds.
Shireesh Joshi, Director – Marketing, Mobile Services, Bharti Airtel said, “In the Indian market scenario, where the penetration of smart phones is relatively low and use of internet on mobile is primarily limited to key cities, many users are excluded from accessing their Facebook accounts via mobile phones. The need for a ubiquitous access mechanism is a growing necessity – and that’s exactly what Airtel’s USSD service for Facebook will help deliver.”

Airtel’s 150 million Indian customers will be able to update their Facebook status for free, but to use other features like viewing, commenting, posting on friends walls, confirming friend requests, ‘Like’ news feeds, view notifications and finding and adding friends, they will have to pay a minimal charge of Re 1 per day.

Facebook’s Head of Mobile Business, Henri Moissinac said, “At Facebook, we are always exploring ways to enable people to easily connect and share with friends on Facebook wherever they are, whenever they want. The USSD-based Facebook access service is an affordable  way for people to stay connected with their friends and family.”

The users will have to dial *325# (*fbk# for non-qwerty mobile handsets) from their handsets which will open a menu that will prompt the user to enter their Facebook username and password and after the one-time registration, a text menu is displayed for browsing through content.

“Although smartphones are available in India, the number of users are not very high. Fonetwish will allow everyone with a mobile phone to access Facebook on their mobiles,” said Sumesh Menon, Co-Founder and CEO, U2opia Mobile, speaking to Techcircle.in. “Currently the USSD based service is only available on Airtel but talks are ongoing with other telecom operators for similar services. We are also looking at expanding our services to other countries like Indonesia and Philippines.”

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