As it closes in on the 100 million African customer milestone, Kostas Kastanis, the head of the Zero-D service from mobile technology company Upstream, will call on the industry to help make free access to internet services available to millions more African consumers whilst monetizing mobile advertising.

Kastanis will tell delegates at the AfricaCom conference in Cape Town (November 12-14) that mobile operators across the continent could boost their own revenues and encourage greater customer loyalty by embracing innovative advertising-funded platforms that give customers a free internet service and keep them online all the time.

Revealing the top four African countries providing free Internet access via the Zero-D platform, Kastanis will say: “South Africa, Tunisia, the Congo and Ghana currently lead the way in Africa with more than 80 million consumers able to access the Zero-D free Internet service even when they have run out of data on their pre-paid mobile accounts. The service is funded by advertising, so the operators are generating extra revenue while their customers stay connected,” he will explain.

Connectivity reduces poverty, improves education, promotes gender equality and upgrades health services in Africa and mobile networks are the only viable means of internet connectivity for most African consumers.  

Yet according to figures from the GSMA’s global connectivity report, around half the population of sub-Saharan Africa live within 3G and 4G mobile internet coverage but remain unable to access the internet.  The twin issues to address to close this usage gap are the cost of the handsets and the cost of mobile data connectivity. Just 1GB of data costs the equivalent of two days pay in Africa, compared to 1.3 hours of work in the USA and six hours of work in Brazil.

In his presentation at the conference, “Keeping Africa Connected: Free ad-funded mobile internet” Kastanis will highlight:  “At any given time, 50 per cent of consumers with a mobile internet enabled handset are offline in Africa as they have run out of data. It means that even those able to afford a handset and buy a pre-paid data plan lose that connectivity. With Zero-D they can stay connected to the essentials of the internet, that is information and news, search function and chat.”

Kastanis will also explain how mobile operators not only benefit from the incremental mobile advertising revenue, but from greater loyalty and less subscriber churn as customers choose to stay on those networks that help them maintain internet connectivity beyond their data allowance. 

Upstream’s success in Africa has been recognised in the 2019 AfricaCom Awards with the company’s Zero-D service shortlisted in this year’s awards.  At AfricaCom Upstream will also showcase its new One-D mobile marketing platform, and the Secure-D solution which has also been shortlisted for an award.