Huge engagement with free ad-funded internet service in South Africa powered by Upstream

Over 25 million users in South Africa now have access to mobile internet basics at no cost

London, October 3rd, 2019 – More than 25 million mobile users in South Africa can now access internet essentials for free at any time, even when they have run out of credit. The free internet service was launched by Vodacom, South Africa’s largest mobile operator, powered by Upstream’s Zero-D connectivity platform. Since its introduction the operator has seen a massive uptake with 55 per cent of its subscriber base already engaging with the portal. Users are averaging sessions of nearly six minutes as they “snack” on the free digital content available in the platform.

Vodacom subscribers that have run out of data are automatically redirected to the Zero-D portal, branded Vodacom Flex, where they continue to have access to essential internet services. These currently include web search, local and international news as well as weather reports. The portal also gives subscribers the option of digitally topping up their service for increased airtime or data.

Vodacom South Africa Zero-D Image

Vodacom South Africa Zero-D Image

“There is a misconception that having a mobile device means you are “connected””, said Kostas Kastanis, Head of Zero-D at Upstream. “For hundreds of millions of people across the world, topping up is not something that they can physically do or afford to do when they run out of credit. That means they are missing out on connectivity to the digital world. Vodacom has taken a leading step to address that shortfall in South Africa with its Vodacom Flex service.”


Zero-D, an ad-funded free mobile internet platform, gives users the fallback option of a zero-rated web environment when they run out of credit. Upstream worked with Vodacom to design and brand a set of internet services which will be most meaningful in the South African market. For the operator it means that they can increase their customer satisfaction and reduce churn in competitive markets. For the subscribers, it means that they can be supported by their mobile operator when they most need it. In South Africa, on an average wage, one needs to work for two days to afford 1GB of data.

Kastanis continued: “There is a lot of talk about “crossing the digital divide” in emerging markets, but together Vodacom and Upstream are actually doing it. Millions of people in South Africa now have the ability to remain connected to digital information which they would not have had otherwise.”


For more information please contact:
Chevaan Seresinhe
Sonus PR for Upstream, UK
P: +44 20 3751 0330

Sofia Marinou
Upstream Corporate Communications
P: +30210 6618532 +30210 6618507

About Upstream
Upstream is a London based leading mobile technology company. Its pioneering product suite provides 1.2 billion people in developing countries with affordable and secure access to digital services on their mobile devices. Upstream’s Zero-D service provides free access to the internet essentials to 250 million mobile users in Latin America and Africa even when they have run out of data. Upstream works with over 60 mobile operators, across more than 45 high growth markets, leveraging their unique assets to boost and create new revenue streams in the data era.

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