8ta has announced ‘Free Zone powered by Google’, which gives users free access to Gmail, Google Search and Google+ from their phones.

Users with a zero credit balance can now access Google’s mobile services from 8ta.com/freezone and use “feature-phone-friendly” versions of Gmail, Google+ and Google Search.

The following services are available immediately at no cost: 

> Gmail: Users have limited access to Gmail from their mobile browser. If users click on a link or attachment within the email, they are directed to a page where they can purchase a data package.
> Google+: Users can share photos and messages with only circles of family, selected friends or the public; follow updates on the things they are passionate about (football, music, news, etc).
> Google Search: Users can search the Internet access the first page of websites from the results for free. If they click further into a website after that, they are directed to a page where they can purchase a data package. 

Google South Africa’s country manager Luke Mckend said: “Given that data can be expensive for many of those in South Africa, the open web is only as open as it is affordable. Working alongside 8.ta on this exciting trial meant we could offer Internet services at no cost to anyone with a phone.”

8ta’s senior managing executive Amith Maharaj added: ” Effectively it means that all South Africans can have free access to Google Search, Google email and Google social networking by simply using any 8ta SIM card on any data enabled handset, no matter how old. This is a big deal.”

It is a big deal especially after MTN announced it was clamping down on its BlackBerry BIS services. Users won’t be covered for WhatsApp, Viber and Google+ any longer. Read more about it here

If you’re an 8ta subscriber, remember to check out 8ta.com/freezone. You will be informed if you need to purchase a data bundle or if you will be incurring any costs while browsing. Trial available until 31 May 2013.