Facebook SIM brings social site to dumb phones

MWC 2011: French digital security outfit Gemalto has announced that it will be bringing social notworking site Facebook to just about every mobile handset on the planet.

Facebook for SIM embeds all the necessary code to allows the world-conquering social phenomenon to be accessed from even the dumbest of dumb phones without a data connection or subscription.

“Increasingly people want to be able to stay connected and communicate with their friends on Facebook anytime, anywhere,” said a spokesface. “Gemalto has developed a creative solution in Facebook for SIM that enables people without mobile data plans to stay connected to their friends on Facebook in an affordable way.”

The technology works by converting Facebook posts into SMS messages which could send your monthly bill through the roof in the wrong hands, but Facebook says it has already inked tariff-free deals with a number of major international airtime providers and has many more in the pipeline.

Facebook already has a massive presence in Europe and the USA, but the opportunities for expansion into emerging markets like Asia and Africa are immense.

Social networking via SMS in countries where paying even $50 for a smartphone is out of the question, and where the data infrastructure is still in its infancy, is big business. India's Gupshup has 20 million subscribers and sends billions of messages, many of them from phones recycled and imported from western nations keen to hit the upgrade path on a yearly cycle.

Gemalto says that Facebook for SIM is extremely easy to use, is available to everyone and no download is needed because the software is embedded in the SIM.

It works for prepaid as well as for pay-monthly customers and, following an initial limited free trial period, will operate on a subscription model via an unlimited pass.

We don't think it's too much of a stretch to suggest that this could be massive. With events in Tunisia and Egypt fresh in the mind, this new technology may well be the next step in the Internet's undoubted influence on global democratisation.