VimpelCom partnership grows the reach of Wikipedia Zero to 330 million mobile users

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We’re excited to announce VimpelCom, the sixth largest mobile network operator in the world, as the newest partner in the Wikipedia Zero program. By waiving data fees to access Wikipedia on mobile phones, VimpelCom will join the Wikimedia Foundation in our effort to give every single person on the planet access to the free knowledge on Wikipedia.
VimpelCom’s footprint covers eighteen countries with a base of almost 210 million mobile subscribers primarily in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa. We are setting out to bring Wikipedia Zero to a minimum of 100 million VimpelCom subscribers in developing countries later this year, with more to follow in 2014. Together with the 230 million customers of our existing partners, this makes Wikipedia Zero available to 330 million people.
The primary target of Wikipedia Zero is people whose primary or only access to the internet is via a mobile device, and VimpelCom’s geographies fit this definition very well. In our analysis of the twenty-five countries with the highest percentage of mobile traffic (based on a minimum of 500K Wikipedia mobile page views), VimpelCom operates in five of them (Zimbabwe, Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh). The table below shows that nine of their markets exceed the global average for mobile usage, and for those that currently don’t, free access to mobile Wikipedia will help increase that percentage significantly.
VimpelCom Emerging Markets Mobile Percentages
In seven of VimpelCom’s operating territories, Russian is the primary language for Wikipedia readership. A quick glance at the readership of Russian Wikipedia shows how fast mobile usage has risen in these countries over the last year. As of December 2012, 14.1 percent of Russian Wikipedia traffic was to the mobile site, on par with the English Wikipedia ratio of 14.6 percent. More telling of this growth is that two years ago, the Russian percentage was half that of English. It’s a testimony of the decreasing price of internet-capable mobile phones having made access to knowledge in local languages attainable for much of the world’s population. By removing data cost as a barrier, VimpelCom will make this even more of a reality.

English and Russian Mobile Wikipedia Traffic

Wikipedia Zero has already proven to accelerate mobile Wikipedia traffic within our existing partners’ networks. The marketing efforts which VimpelCom operators put behind the program will raise awareness of Wikipedia in places where it is less well known, and we hope to see similar spikes in traffic in each of these territories. We look forward to sharing the results, news, and case studies here.
See also the press release: VimpelCom partners with the Wikimedia Foundation to offer free mobile Wikipedia access through Wikipedia Zero, and the accompanying Q&A
Amit Kapoor, Senior Manager, Mobile Partnerships

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I’m unhappy that Wikimedia chooses to backstab network neutrality advocates with this program. Traffic should not be discriminated based on what site it comes from, neither regarding speed nor cost!

As you may already know, the primary way people access the internet, especially in developing countries, is through mobile devices. However, the cost to access data on mobile devices for people in these regions can be prohibitively expensive. Therefore, we have made it a priority to reduce and/or eliminate one of those primary barriers, which is the cost to access data. To ensure widest distribution to the human community globally, we enter non-exclusive partnerships intended to increase content reach. Our mission is to make sure that everyone on the planet can have access to free knowledge but we do this… Read more »