Connecting to Facebook’s website and others via mobile devices is a problem in many parts of the world, including India. Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and others have vowed to get the entire world online using spectacular technology like Wi-Fi balloons. However, the solution may be much simpler than that.


Indian company brings Facebook to phones

Javed Anwer of The Times of India reports that U2opia Mobile is using a technology which already exists but is often overlooked. The company has made some adjustments to Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) technology which enables any mobile device—even one without a data connection—to connect to Facebook.

USSD technology is actually still utilized by carriers to connect mobile devices to their servers, and many users are already familiar with the technology—whether they know it or not. According to Anwer, users of prepaid mobile devices use USSD whenever they use a code in their mobile phones to check how much of a balance they have left on their plan.

Facebook on a 1G device

Many parts of the world are on 3G service and moving toward 4G. However, 1G is still common in some of the less developed areas. According to U2opia Mobile CEO Sumesh Menon, USSD is “a 1G solution that works in a 3G world.”

He says it’s difficult to find data connections which are not only affordable but also reliable in India. He said even when users have phones which are able to use data connections, a 3G network often isn’t available or they can’t afford the data plans, which are very expensive. Menon says their solution allows these users to connect to Facebook from a mobile device.

Connecting to Facebook with low-tech devices

This solution developed by the company appears to be aimed directly at connecting with Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)’s popular social network. Most mobile users in India are able to use the USSD-based access. To get onto the social network from a mobile phone, users have to subscribe by dialing *325#. Then after the service becomes active in a few minutes, users are able to use the USSD menu to access their Facebook timelines. They can also use Facebook Messenger on the connection.

Connecting with Facebook this way is pretty inexpensive compared to expensive data plans. Although different mobile carriers charge different amounts, the price usually runs about Re 1 a day. Mobile major mobile carriers in India, except BSNL, support the service. Menon also said more than 40 carriers in 30 different countries use the technology to connect users to Facebook cheaply and effectively.

Limitations to the Facebook connection

Of course because this is a very low-tech solution, there are some limitations to the technology. The connection is text only, so users cannot access photographs through it. Also posting to Facebook requires a few extra steps like choosing a number on a menu or sending a code.