TeliaSonera Marries Phones and Facebook Using SMS, MMS

Sonera subscribers will be able to access Facebook features from any mobile phone by sending and receiving SMS and MMS messages, the company announced on Tuesday.

There are still a lot phones that lack support for Internet browsing or Facebook applications and for mobile users of these devices, messaging is the easiest way to get access to the social-networking site, according to Vesa Lindqvist, development manager for Mobility Services at TeliaSonera Finland, Sonera's parent company.

Using SMS (Short Message Service), users will both be able to update their status and get messages from friends. The "Text Me" service lets users receive messages from friends. The first 20 messages per month are free, and users can buy an additional 50 messages for €1.90 (US$2.40), TeliaSonera said in a statement.

Using SMS and the "Text Your Status" service users can update their status by sending a message to a special number. In this case they are charged €0.79 per SMS, according to TeliaSonera.

By sending an MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) users can also add images to their account; these cost as much as a regular MMS.

In both cases Facebook users first have to add an application, which is available via TeliaSonera's Finnish Web site or on Facebook.

TeliaSonera isn't the only operator that wants to make it possible for more users to get access to Facebook on their mobile phone, according to Jonathan Arber, senior research analyst at IDC.

"Vodafone in the U.K. has offered something similar, and a lot of operators are moving towards offering similar services," he said.

There is a growing trend toward offering means to get access to mobile services without using a high-end smartphone application or a Web browser, according to Arber.

"It's a great way of starting to introduce users with lower end devices to mobile Internet services. Even if they're perhaps not using mobile data to begin with it brings up the idea that your mobile device can be the hub for all your different connected networks," Arber said.

However, there are some problems, and user's willingness to pay for something that has previously been free is one of them.

"Facebook is kind of a good example in that one perceived difficulty might be that consumers have to feel they are really getting value out of this. Otherwise they will quickly feel they're getting ripped off," said Arber.

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