Mobile partnerships

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The Wikimedia Foundation is engaged in a number of mobile partnerships.

General questions

Q: Why is the Wikimedia Foundation partnering with mobile operators?

A: The short answer is to make free knowledge more accessible. One of the major goals of WMF is for Wikimedia sites to reach 1 billion people by 2015 (in April 2013, we reached 517 million). As mobile phone connections begin to outnumber PC connections in much of the world, it is expected that a large number of the next 500 million users will come from mobile. In order to introduce new readers, and contributors, to Wikipedia via mobile devices we need to do two things: 1) Help them discover it and 2) Reduce barriers to accessing it. Every mobile partnership will be designed to address these objectives.

Q: What is the main program? What is Wikipedia Zero?

A: Our primary mobile partnership program is to work with mobile operators to allow their customers to access Wikipedia without incurring data charges. The program is called Wikipedia Zero, the "zero" part meaning "zero" cost to the user. The concept is simple: a mobile operator "zero-rates" (i.e. waives data charges) for users accessing a version of the Wikipedia mobile site.

Q: Is it the same as other zero projects? Are you partnering with Facebook Zero?

A: This is not a partnership with Facebook or any other similarly branded zero program. They are the same in that they allow users in developing countries access to the sites without paying data charges. Our initiative was inspired by the concept of Facebook Zero, but this is not a program between the Wikimedia Foundation and Facebook or any other web or mobile sites.

Q: Why would any mobile carrier give free access to one service and not another?

A: We can't speak on behalf of mobile carriers or other services, but a principal reason for giving Wikipedia for free is that it is a public good and not monetized. Partners agree with our philosophy that access to free knowledge should be a fundamental human right.

Q: Are partners paying the Wikimedia Foundation to be able to deliver these types of programs? Is the Wikimedia Foundation paying partners?

A: No. The partnerships do not produce revenue for the Wikimedia Foundation, and the Wikimedia Foundation is not paying partners.

Q: What exactly does the Wikimedia Foundation get from carriers for these kinds of partnerships?

A: The only goal of these partnerships is to advance the free knowledge mission. They drive awareness of Wikipedia, make it easier for people to discover the sites, and reduce barriers to accessing it.

Q: What does the partner get? Why would they do it?

A: There is a marketing benefit for them. Customers are more likely to buy from and be more loyal to an operator that supports the mission, and even more so if that operator provides Wikipedia without data charges. Partners often create campaigns as well to promote free Wikipedia access. Additionally, in the case of Wikipedia Zero, it helps introduce people to the usefulness of the mobile internet, which means more customers for operators in the long-term.

Q: Are you making 'exclusive' deals to partners for specific territories?

A: No. We will not do any exclusive deals.

Q: Would you do any partnerships that don't involve free Wikipedia?

A: Wikipedia Zero is the priority for all partnerships, but is not the only way we partner. Some partners may, for example, offering Wikipedia through text message (program under development) or pre-load a Wikipedia app on the devices they sell. This helps achieve the discovery and accessibility objectives.

Countries with Wikipedia Zero for all languages (blue) and some languages (green)

Q: What parts of the world are you working with?

A: We are focusing on the areas of the world, which have the greatest need to reduce barriers so people can have access to knowledge. Those areas include most countries in Africa, Asia, Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Latin America.

Q: Do you think there are people in developed countries that could also benefit from free Wikipedia?

A: Definitely. We need to prioritize though on places where impact will be greatest, which means countries in which the barriers to access (data cost relative to income) are greatest and where the gap between mobile penetration and desktop penetration is higher.

Q: Are the partners hosting Wikipedia on their own servers and re-offering it for free to customers?

A: No. Nothing is changed about the way Wikipedia is hosted.

Q: How is the Wikimedia Foundation making these programs possible? What is the technical overhead? How much does it cost?

A: Implementing Wikipedia Zero in many countries around the world requires a variety of work, including marketing, legal, communications, technical development, and support. Mobile is one of our primary strategic priorities and is funded by the core Wikimedia Foundation program budget as it gives access to Wikipedia to people that normally couldn't afford to use it on their mobile devices.

Q: These kinds of deals are great if you have a mobile phone that can render data, but what is the Wikimedia Foundation doing to increase reach for people without those types of phones?

A: This is also a priority, and we are working on developing SMS and USSD services in which a user can search Wikipedia and read articles without a data-enabled phone. Unlike Wikipedia Zero, which utilizes the existing mobile site, these programs require additional infrastructure. For that reason, we anticipate being able to roll out those services later in 2013.

Q: Why isn't editing included in these kinds of systems? Obviously we could be getting new users to edit and read from their mobile devices.

A: In July 2013 the Wikimedia Foundation announced that mobile editing has been enabled on Wikimedia sites for users with Wikimedia accounts. The ability to edit Wikipedia from a mobile device has been in the Wikimedia Foundation's product roadmap and with the feature enabled, users can now contribute to Wikipedia on-the-go.

Q: What role do community members have in these partnerships?

A: Community plays a vital role in helping us discover the opportunities to expand mobile reach and how to improve the experience for contributors and readers. We are also working on new ways in which community can help evangelize the Wikipedia Zero program.

Partnerships

Orange

Please read the press release announcing this partnership.

Q: What's the primary purpose of this relationship with Orange?

A: The purpose is to make it possible for more people to access Wikipedia on their phone. Orange is removing price (i.e. cost of data) as a barrier, which supports that mission.

Q: How big is Orange's presence in Africa and the Middle East?

A: As of September 2011, Orange had 70.4 million customers in the Middle East and Africa (hereafter, "MEA") across 20 countries.

Q: How many countries will this involve? Which ones?

A: All 20 of Orange's operations in MEA. The countries are Botswana, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Jordan, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mali, Madagascar, Mauritius Island, Morocco, Niger, Tunisia, Uganda, Senegal and Congo. Vanuatu (though not in MEA) is also included in the partnership.

Q: Is this Wikipedia Zero?

A: This is part of the Wikipedia Zero program at the Wikimedia Foundation in that it provides access without data charges. However, the Orange operators may not necessarily adopt the Wikipedia Zero name within their communications and marketing.

Q: Why Orange and not other mobile operators?

A: We will be working with more mobile operators across the world to provide Wikipedia for free. Orange is just the first.

Q: Is there money involved?

A: No. There is no money involved with this partnership. Orange is not paying Wikimedia Foundation, and Wikimedia Foundation is not paying Orange.

Q: Is this different from the previous partnership with Orange?

A: Yes, this is a new partnership. It is focused only on MEA and on providing access to Wikipedia without data charges. You can also read the FAQ about the previous partnership.

Q: Is this an exclusive deal?

A: No. As mentioned above, we do not do exclusive deals with any operator.

Q: What is the duration of this deal?

A: Through November 2014.

Q: Will these operators be putting Wikipedia in their advertising?

A: Many of them will put out various communication materials (ranging from leaflets to billboards) about the program in order to promote it and encourage usage. Anytime the Wikipedia logo is used, the Wikimedia Foundation will have to give approval to ensure that the use is in line with the mission.

Q: It seems like Wikimedia has only really signed with two partners on any mobile front, and one of those is Orange. Where are the other providers? What's the delay?

A: We are working on plans with several other partners right now, and will be announcing each one as they are confirmed. The process can take time as partners have to get internal support and approval to run these programs. Additionally, we need to gradually roll out partners so that we are able to test, debug, and evaluate programs to minimize errors.

Q: When will the offer be available in each country?"

A: Countries will be rolled out gradually throughout 2012 and 2013. We do not know dates yet.

Q: Can someone with an Orange phone who doesn't have money in their account access the free content?

A: Customers need to have Orange credit available on their Orange SIM cards to take part in this offer but they will not be charged for using it.

Q: Is every Orange customer within the country eligible?

A: Each country will establish their own parameters. In some cases, certain plans will not be included. These will be case-by-case with each operator, and any exceptions should be very few.

Q: Are there usage caps?

A: There are no caps to free access. Users can read as many articles as they want without incurring data charges. To ensure fair usage and prevent abuse, each country may impose a soft cap after which a user's connection may be slower. The threshold for this soft cap will vary, but it should be around the equivalent of 100 page views in a month. The average usage of Wikipedia on mobile devices, from December 2011 statistics, is 26 page views per reader per month.

Q: What language versions of Wikipedia are included?

A: All languages are included in the master agreement, though, of course, the user's phone must be capable of rendering that language. In some countries, the operator may have to limit the number of languages available for free due to billing system constraints; in these cases, we will ensure that, at a minimum, the top 5 most common languages within the country are available for free.

Q: Why can't I use this service to edit Wikipedia as well? Isn't that the whole point of getting more people involved?

A: Please see the question under "General Questions" regarding mobile editing. The program with Orange should improve readership accessibility and introduce many first-time readers to Wikipedia in MEA. This paves the way for more participation.

Q: Does the offer include other Wikimedia projects? If not, why?

A: For the moment, most mobile operators would only like to start off with offering Wikipedia through this program. Orange, however, will be offering access to Commons via Wikipedia as well.

Telenor

Please read the press release announcing this partnership.

Q: What's the primary purpose of the partnership?

A: Our mobile partnership strategy is to make it possible for more people to access free knowledge by reducing barriers to accessing Wikipedia on phones. Telenor is removing cost (i.e. data fees) as a barrier to access for its customers. The partnership will bring this benefit to new countries in Asia and Eastern Europe.

Q: Which countries are included?

A: To begin with, it will include Telenor's subsidiaries in Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Serbia, Montenegro, and India at a later date. Additional Telenor subsidiaries may also be added before the end of the year.

Q: How many people will this effect?

A: Telenor's customer base in these countries is 135 million as of December 2011.

Q: Will all users in these countries be able to access Wikipedia for free?

A: We are working through implementation details with each country. Each of these countries will offer a version of Wikipedia for free. "Version" means either Wikipedia on mobile web or Wikipedia via SMS and USSD. Most countries will be waiving data charges as part of the Wikipedia Zero program; in most cases, this will be to the lightweight, text-only site. For countries in which data fees are not waived, there will be free usage of Wikipedia via SMS and USSD, services we are currently developing.

Q: Which countries will be offering what version?

A: We are working through this on a case-by-case basis. We know for now that Malaysia (Digi), Thailand (DTAC), Bangladesh (Grameenphone), Montenegro, and Serbia will be giving free mobile web access ("Wikipedia Zero") through Opera Mini. It is still to be determined which of these will be to the full Wikipedia mobile site or to the lightweight, text-only site. Countries that offer Wikipedia free by SMS and USSD will be named later. Once we know the details of what will be offered in each country, we will announce them.

Q: When will this launch?

A: We're working with Telenor on the rollout plan, but we plan to launch with Malaysia (Digi) first. For their customers, it will be no data charges to access the text-only version of Wikipedia Zero (all language versions) through the Opera Mini browser.

Q: How long will this last?

A: We've arranged a 3-year agreement with Telenor, and the free services will be available for at least 1 year from when they launch.

Q: Is there money involved?

A: No. Telenor is not paying Wikimedia Foundation, and Wikimedia Foundation is not paying Telenor.

Q: Is this an exclusive deal?

A: No. We still don't do any exclusive deals.

STC

This Q&A was published following the distribution of a press release by the Wikimedia Foundation and STC on October 14, 2012.

Q: What's the primary purpose of the partnership?

A: This partnership makes it possible for more people to access free knowledge by reducing barriers to accessing Wikipedia on mobile phones. Saudi Telecom (STC) is removing cost (i.e. data fees) as a barrier to access for its customers. The partnership will bring this benefit to three new countries: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait.

Q: How many people will benefit from this parternship?

A: STC's customer base is approximately 25 million subscribers across Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait.

Q: Will all users in these countries be able to access Wikipedia for free?

A: Any STC mobile customer in Saudi Arabia will be able to access Wikipedia on their phone without incurring data charges. We are still working through implementation details for Viva (STC's subsidiary) in Bahrain and Kuwait, but we also expect that it will be made available to all of their customers.

Q: What versions of Wikipedia will be available for free?

A: In Saudi Arabia, five language versions (Arabic, English, Urdu, Bengali, Tagalog) of Wikipedia's mobile site will be available for free. These can be accessed at m.wikipedia.org. Additionally, for users with slower connections, the same languages will be available for free in lightweight, text-only version at zero.wikipedia.org. Versions and languages for Bahrain and Kuwait are still to be determined.

Q: Are versions of Wikipedia other than mobile web also included in this partnership?

A: Free mobile web access ("Wikipedia Zero") is the center of this partnership, though we also hope to distribute additional modes of access through STC, including Android App, J2ME app, and SMS/USSD.

Q: When will this launch?

A: The offer is available immediately (October 14, 2012) in Saudi Arabia. Launch dates in Bahrain and Kuwait will follow in the coming months.

Q: How long will this last?

A: We have a 3-year agreement with STC, and the free services will be available for at least 1 year from when they launch.

Q: How does this support the Foundation’s Arabic language initiatives?

A: The Arabic Language Initiative is intended to increase the number of contributors and content in Arabic Wikipedia. By making Wikipedia more easily available in these countries through Wikipedia Zero, the STC partnerships will introduce new Arabic-speaking users, who may ultimately become contributors, to Wikipedia. Currently, the highest volume on contributions to Arabic Wikipedia comes from Saudi Arabia.

Q: Isn't Saudi Arabia a rich country? Why do they need free Wikipedia?

A: Our mobile programs are intended to remove barriers to accessing knowledge, so that anyone can discover what they want to know whenever they need to know it. Additionally, World Bank data shows that Gross National Income per Capita of Saudi Arabia is approximately 35% that of the United States.

Q: Is there money involved?

A: No. STC is not paying Wikimedia Foundation, and Wikimedia Foundation is not paying STC.

Q: Is this an exclusive deal?

A: No. We still don't do any exclusive deals.

VimpelCom

This Q&A was published following the distribution of a press release by the Wikimedia Foundation on January 24, 2013.

Q: What's the primary purpose of the partnership?

A: This partnership is part of the Wikipedia Zero program, which makes it possible for more people to access free knowledge by reducing barriers to accessing Wikipedia on mobile phones. VimpelCom is removing cost as a barrier to access for its customers by eliminating data fees for accessing the mobile Wikipedia sites. The partnership will bring this benefit to several new countries in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Q: In what countries does VimpelCom operate?

A: VimpelCom has mobile telecommunication operations in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Cambodia, Laos, Algeria, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic, Italy, and Canada. VimpelCom provides services under the “Beeline“, “Kyivstar“, “djuice“, “Wind”, “Infostrada“, “Mobilink”, “Leo”, “banglalink”, “Telecel”, and “Djezzy” brands in these territories. Due to technical limitations with some operators, not every country will be able to offer Wikipedia Zero.

Q: How many people will benefit from this partnership?

A: Vimpelcom's customer base as of March 2012 is approximately 210 million subscribers. While not every VimpelCom operator is able to offer Wikipedia Zero due to technical limitations, VimpelCom will work with us to bring the offer to at least 100 million subscribers in a minimum of five countries in 2013. Additional countries may launch next year.

Q: Will all users in these countries be able to access Wikipedia for free?

A: Within the countries in which VimpelCom launches Wikipedia Zero, anyone with a valid mobile SIM card of the operator can access Wikipedia on their mobile phone, provided their phone has a browser, without paying data charges.

Q: What versions of Wikipedia will be available for free?

A: In the countries that have launched the program, users can access m.wikipedia.org (Wikipedia's mobile site) for free. Additionally, zero.wikipedia.org (a text-only version of the mobile site, optimized for slower connections) will be made available for free. At a minimum, these will include the top 5 most used language versions of Wikipedia within each country.

Q: Are versions of Wikipedia other than mobile web also included in this partnership?

A: Free mobile web access ("Wikipedia Zero") is the center of this partnership, though we are exploring the opportunity in the future to offer access to the official Wikipedia apps for free. Additionally, we will discuss delivering Wikipedia via text message (using USSD & SMS) in certain countries once those programs are available.

Q: When will this launch?

A: Wikipedia Zero will roll out gradually in the selected countries throughout 2013.

Q: How important is mobile access in VimpelCom's territories?

A: In many developing countries, such as those in which VimpelCom primarily has operations, mobile is often the first or only access to the internet that many people have. In our October 2012 analysis of the 25 countries with the highest percentage of Wikipedia mobile use, VimpelCom operates in five of them (Zimbabwe, Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh).

Q: How long will this last?

A: We have a 3-year agreement with VimpelCom, and the free services will be available for at least 1 year from when they launch.

Q: Is there money involved?

A: VimpelCom is not paying Wikimedia Foundation, and Wikimedia Foundation is not paying VimpelCom.

Q: Is this an exclusive deal?

A: No. We still don't do any exclusive deals.

Axiata

This Q&A was published following the distribution of a press release by the Wikimedia Foundation on March 18, 2013.

Q: What's the primary purpose of the partnership?

A: This partnership is part of the Wikipedia Zero program, which makes it possible for more people to access free knowledge by reducing barriers to accessing Wikipedia on mobile phones. Axiata is removing cost as a barrier to access for its customers by eliminating data fees for accessing the mobile Wikipedia sites. The partnership will bring this benefit to five countries in Asia.

Q: Which countries are included?

A: Axiata's operations in Indonesia (XL Axiata), Malaysia (Celcom Axiata), Cambodia (Smart Axiata), Sri Lanka (Dialog Axiata), and Bangladesh (Robi Axiata) are included in this partnership.

Q: How many people will benefit from this partnership?

A: Axiata's customer base in these countries as of March 2013 is approximately 80 million subscribers.

Q: Will all users in these countries be able to access Wikipedia for free?

A: Yes. Anyone with a valid mobile SIM card of the operator can access a version of Wikipedia on their mobile phone, provided their phone has a browser, without paying data charges. In some countries, free access may be limited to 35 MB per user month, which is the equivalent of over 100 page views.

Q: What versions of Wikipedia will be available for free?

A: Axiata's operators are giving free access to zero.wikipedia.org, the text-only version of the Wikipedia mobile site. Some operators may later also offer free access to m.wikipedia.org (the standard Wikipedia mobile site), but access to that site will be charged at standard operator rates for now.

Q: Are versions of Wikipedia other than mobile web also included in this partnership?

A: Free mobile web access ("Wikipedia Zero") is the center of this partnership, though we will investigate offering Wikipedia via text message (using USSD & SMS) in certain countries once those programs are available.

Q: When will this launch?

A: Wikipedia Zero will roll out gradually in the five countries throughout 2013.

Q: How long will this last?

A: We have a 3-year agreement with Axiata, and the free services will be available for at least 1 year from when they launch.

Q: Is there money involved?

A: Axiata is not paying Wikimedia Foundation, and Wikimedia Foundation is not paying Axiata.

Q: Is this an exclusive deal?

A: No. We still don't do any exclusive deals.

Aircel

Please read the press release announcing this partnership.

Q: What's the primary purpose of the partnership?

A: Our mobile partnership strategy makes it possible for more people to have free knowledge by reducing barriers to accessing Wikipedia on phones. Aircel is removing cost (i.e. data fees) as a barrier to access for its customers as part of our Wikipedia Zero program. This is the first partnership of its kind to formally launch in India.

Q: How many people will this effect?

A: Estimates put Aircel's customer base at around 60 million subscribers in India.

Q: Will all Aircel users be able to access Wikipedia Zero for free?

A: Yes, any customer with a valid Aircel SIM and internet-capable phone can access Wikipedia for free.

Q: How does an Aircel customer access Wikipedia Zero?

A: Customers can access m.wikipedia.org (Wikipedia's mobile site) for free. Additionally, zero.wikipedia.org (a text-only version of the mobile site, optimized for slower connections) will be made available for free.

Q: What languages of Wikipedia will be available for free on Wikipedia Zero?

A: English and all of the Indic languages that are on Wikipedia are available for free through Aircel. There are currently 19 Indic language Wikipedias: Hindi (hi), Bengali (bn), Marathi (mr), Telugu (te), Tamil (ta), Urdu (ur), Kannada (kn), Gujarati (gu), Sindhi (sd), Bhojpuri (bho), Malayalam (ml), Oriya (or), Punjabi (pa), Assamese (as), Nepali (ne), Kashmiri (ks), Newari (new), Bishnupriya Manipuri (bpy), and Sanskrit (sa).

Q: How does someone access the non-English language versions of Wikipedia?

A: Customers should input XX.m.wikipedia.org or XX.zero.wikipedia.org into their mobile browser, where XX represents the two letter language code above. Note that some mobile devices are not able to render scripts in all languages.

Q: Can Aircel customers access Wikipedia Zero as much as they like for free?

A: The aim of this partnership is to provide Wikipedia for free to customers as much as they need or want it. To ensure fair usage and prevent abuse, Aircel may apply measures through the course of the partnership to manage extreme overage. Additionally, free access may not be available when roaming.

Q: When will this launch?

A: The free service will be available as of July 25, 2013.

Q: How long will this partnership last?

A: The partnership with Aircel is a 3-year agreement.

Q: Is there money involved?

A: Aircel is not paying Wikimedia Foundation, and Wikimedia Foundation is not paying Aircel.

Q: Is this an exclusive deal?

A: No, we do not do any exclusive deals.

Where is Wikipedia free to access?

Where is Wikipedia free to access?
Country Carrier Free as of Which version is free? Which languages are free? Any other restrictions?
Uganda Orange April 4, 2012 m.wikipedia only en, fr, ko, de, zh, sw, rw, ar, hi, es None
Tunisia Orange April 24, 2012 m.wikipedia only ar, en, fr, es, de, it, ru, jp, zh None
Malaysia Digi May 21, 2012 zero.wikipedia only All languages Opera Mini browser only
Niger Orange July 2, 2012 m.wikipedia only All languages None
Kenya Orange July 26, 2012 m.wikipedia only All languages None
Montenegro Telenor August 10, 2012 m.wikipedia & zero.wikipedia All languages None
Cameroon Orange August 16, 2012 m.wikipedia only fr, en, es, de, zh, ar, ha, ln, yo, eo None
Ivory Coast Orange September 28, 2012 m.wikipedia only All languages None
Thailand dtac October 11, 2012 zero.wikipedia only All languages None
Saudi Arabia STC October 14, 2012 m.wikipedia & zero.wikipedia ar, en, ur, bn, tl None
Democratic Republic of Congo Orange December 6, 2012 m.wikipedia only All languages None
Botswana Orange February 8, 2013 m.wikipedia only All languages None
Russia Beeline March 28, 2013 m.wikipedia & zero.wikipedia ru, en None
Indonesia XL Axiata April 1, 2013 zero.wikipedia only id, en, zh, ar, hi, ms, jv, su None
Pakistan Mobilink May 31, 2013 m.wikipedia & zero.wikipedia en, ur None
Sri Lanka Dialog June 25, 2013 zero.wikipedia only en, si, ta None
India Aircel July 25, 2013 m.wikipedia & zero.wikipedia All languages None
Madagascar Orange September 21, 2013 m.wikipedia only fr, en, mg None
Jordan Umniah September 29, 2013 m.wikipedia & zero.wikipedia en, ar None
Bangladesh Banglalink October 6, 2013 m.wikipedia & zero.wikipedia en, bn None
Kenya Airtel October 24, 2013 m.wikipedia & zero.wikipedia All languages None
Tajikistan Tcell November 19, 2013 m.wikipedia & zero.wikipedia All languages None
Kazakhstan Beeline November 25, 2013 m.wikipedia & zero.wikipedia ru, kk, en None
Bangladesh Grameenphone December 16, 2013 zero.wikipedia only All languages None
South Africa MTN Feb 28, 2014 m.wikipedia & zero.wikipedia All languages Opera Mini browser only
Kenya Safaricom March 1, 2014 m.wikipedia & zero.wikipedia All languages None
Kosovo IPKO March 23, 2014 m.wikipedia & zero.wikipedia All languages None

Note on version: Partners are either giving free access to m.wikipedia.org (mobile version), zero.wikipedia.org (mobile text-only version), or both. In the future, most partnerships will be offering both.