Facebook to bring free data access to messaging service

Social network giant is partnering mobile operators in emerging markets to provide free or discounted mobile data access for its messaging service, when accessed through its mobile apps.

Facebook is inking partnerships with telcos globally to allow users to access the social network's messaging service through various mobile apps on different platforms, for free or discounted data access.

Facebook extends free mobile data access for its messaging service.

In a blog post Monday, the social network announced it had partnered at least 18 mobile operators in 14 countries to give free or discounted data access to the Facebook messaging services, through its messaging apps for Google Android and Apple iOS , as well as its Java-based Facebook for Every Phone app.

"Through this promotion, free or discounted data access will be available in the coming months on Messenger for Android, Messenger for iOS, and [Java-based] Facebook for Every Phone which is now optimized for chat," Facebook said.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the service will be available from Airtel and Reliance in India; Indosat, Smartfren, Axis and XL Axiata in Indonesia; Smart in the Philippines; DiGi in Malaysia; and DTAC in Thailand.

Operators in other regions include TMN in Portugal; Three in Ireland; Vivacom in Bulgaria; Backcell in Azerbaydzhan; Viva in Bahrain; STC in Saudi Arabia; Oi in Brazil; Etisalat in Egypt; and Tre in Italy.

The news follows the move by India's Airtel not to charge some prepaid subscribers to access Facebook, an offer that ended on February 15, International Business Times reported. Last December, Reliance also announced prepaid customers would have unlimited usage of Facebook Messenger for US$16 per month.

Last year, an Airtel executive singled out Google, but not Facebook, when he complained about software companies' free ride on telco networks.

''Network is capital intensive, we have to pay for spectrum and voice revenue is coming down. At the same time, companies like Google, which have not invested more than a few billion dollars, are enjoying valuations that are ten times that of a traditional telecom player,'' Mr Jagbir Singh, director of network services group at Airtel, told The Hindu last August.

Those calls resurfaced last month when Vodafone India's CEO Marten Pieters called for legislation to force Google and other content providers to pay connectivity charges to telcos, according to a report by The Hindu.

"It's a strange business model at present where telecom operators invest huge amounts of money to upgrade data networks and players like YouTube [owned by Google], who gets the revenue, don't pay anything," Pieters told The Hindu at the recent Mobile World Conference in Barcelona.

In May 2010, Facebook launched its free mobile access to 0.facebook.com which also targeted users in emerging markets. Users could access the text-based mobile Web site for free if they were on the networks of operators with which Facebook had partnered.

Internet search giant Google has similar free data access services for emerging markets, called Free Zone , with the aim to bring the World Wide Web to "the next billion users of the Internet".