AMSTERDAM, Jan. 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- "VimpelCom Ltd." ("VimpelCom", "Company" or "Group") (NYSE: VIP), a leading global provider of telecommunications services, and the Wikimedia Foundation, operator of Wikipedia, the web-based, multilingual, free-content encyclopedia project, today announced a partnership to deliver free Wikipedia access to VimpelCom customers.
Through Wikipedia Zero, VimpelCom's mobile customers will have free access to the mobile version of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, along with a light-weight, text-only fast version of the site. Locally-relevant articles in local language versions of Wikipedia will be available along with the English version.
Wikipedia is the largest collection of knowledge ever assembled. Featuring more than 23 million articles available in 280 languages, Wikipedia is the world's fifth most visited website with a 483 million-strong global readership.Mikhail Gerchuk, VimpelCom's Group Chief Commercial and Strategy Officer, said: "The world's sixth largest telecommunications company and fifth largest website globally are coming together to offer our customers a better mobile experience and greater access to free knowledge, particularly in emerging markets. This is a win-win partnership that helps us to promote the mobile internet to our customers while contributing to Wikipedia's mission to bring free access to the entire world's knowledge." "We're very happy VimpelCom is joining us in removing a major barrier to accessing Wikipedia on mobile phones. This partnership is an important step forward in our mission to bring free knowledge to everyone on the planet," said Kul Takanao Wadhwa, Head of Mobile with the Wikimedia Foundation. "In conjunction with VimpelCom, one of the largest telecommunication providers in the world, we're now able to expand free access to Wikipedia in more countries. With this partnership, Wikipedia Zero is now available to 330 million mobile users around the world." Wikipedia Zero will be rolled out in VimpelCom operations across the globe starting this year, with focus on emerging markets in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa. While Wikipedia Zero will be the first initiative of the partnership to launch, both partners are also expected to jointly develop additional Wikimedia services to target emerging markets in the future. This latest agreement is part of VimpelCom's consistent strategy of providing its customers with the best mobile experience and complements the previously announced partnership with Opera Mini to provide a mobile web browser optimized for basic phones.