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Google launches Free Zone for emerging markets

Google has launched Free Zone, a new service designed to enable free mobile Internet access in developing countries.

The service has been introduced to the Philippines through local telecommunications company Globe, though (depending on its success) Google intends to roll it out to alternative emerging markets in the near future.

Users of Free Zone will be allowed to access a selection of Google's basic services, such as Google Search, Gmail and Google+ without incurring data charges.

However, though people will be able to send and receive simple emails for free, downloading attachments could lead to the payment of fees.

Similarly, users will be permitted to access the websites that show up in Google's search engine results for free, but pages beyond these will be inaccessible without payment. Clicking further will prompt a diversion to a page offering a subscription to Globe's data plans.

Free Zone is aimed primarily at owners of feature phones, which are more basic than smartphones, though it will be compatible with most Internet-enabled mobile phones.

"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," stated AbdelKarim Mardini, Google's product manager, in an interview with Reuters.

The service will be uncapped, only accessible through a phone's default browser and will first require a user to possess a Google account.