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February 25, 2013

Facebook Expands Mobile Outreach by Offering Data Discounts and Other Freebies

By Jacqueline Lee, Contributing Writer

If you’re a Facebooker, and who isn't, sending and receiving Facebook (News - Alert) messages is about to get a whole lot cheaper.

Facebook will partner with 18 carriers to deliver either free or discounted data over its Messenger for Android (News - Alert), Messenger for iOS and Facebook for Every Phone platforms.

The blessed countries include Azerbijian, Bahrain, Brazil, Bulgaria, Egypt, Portugal, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Thailand.

The social media giant hasn’t revealed when the promotions will start, but users stand to save a chunk of change. Nearly three out of every four Facebook users use the Messenger platform each month.

Facebook has over one billion subscribers and 680 million mobile users. Currently, customers can access Facebook messaging on over 6,000 different types of mobile phones. Analysts expect the promotions to last around three months depending on the carrier.

The discounted data will allow Facebook to penetrate markets in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and South America. The company has largely saturated its North American market. 

Last December, Facebook released its Messenger app to Android users in India, Australia, South Africa, Venezuela and Indonesia. Users in those countries can download the app, enter their mobile numbers and send SMS messages whether or not they actually have Facebook accounts.

Coincidentally, these countries also have some of the most expensive SMS rates in the world, so new Messages users could easily convert into new Facebook sign-ups. The same will happen if Facebook expands its free VoIP calling outside of North America.

Dan Rose, vice president of Partnerships for Facebook, recently commented that Facebook sends 180 million clicks to Google Play and the Apple (News - Alert) App Store each month. Rose also asserts that 70 percent of mobile users check Facebook every day compared to less than one-half of desktop users.

Facebook has expressed interest in acquiring mobile messaging platform WhatsApp, although the company hasn’t entered into official purchase negotiations. Still, with its discounted data and free messaging, Facebook obviously has mobile on its mind.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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