Facebook announced today that it has reached a deal to bring free or discounted use of its Messenger app to smartphone and feature phone users in 14 countries worldwide. The announcement mirrors similar moves by Facebook to zero-rate its service in emerging markets to attract mobile web users. While the majority of Facebook users in developed countries access the site from their computers, emerging market users are far more likely to access the site and its services on their mobile phones. In India for example, where over 50% of the country’s web traffic is from mobile phones, near 61.5 million people use Facebook, many of them via mobile web.

The following operators were part of the recent deal:

Asia: Airtel (India), Reliance (India), Indosat (Indonesia), Smartfren (Indonesia), Axis (Indonesia), XL (Indonesia)
Africa and Middle East: Viva (Bahrain), STC (Saudi Arabia), Etisalat (Egypt)
Europe: TMN (Portugal), Three (Ireland), Vivacom (Bulgaria), Backcell (Azerbaijan), Tre (Italy)
Latin America: Oi (Brazil)

Facebook user growth, while stagnant in North America and Europe, has taken off in emerging markets. In the last six months alone, Brazil, India, and Indonesia have accounted for over 10 million, 8 million, and 3 million users each respectively. In a survey conducted by Jana at the end of last week, 50.6% of respondents in India used the internet for social media, making it the most popular activity among respondents. In fact, more respondents use the internet for social media than they do for work or school.

The survey’s findings highlight the growing popularity of sites like Facebook among consumers in emerging Asia. As even more people in these countries start gaining access to the mobile web, social media websites will become an even more effective means of reaching potential consumers.


All data was gathered by Jana from our mobile research panel in India. For questions about the data, or for more information, please reach out to us on Twitter: @Jana


Published February 25, 2013