Facebook partners with mobile carriers to offer free data for Facebook messaging

messengerFacebook today announced partnerships with mobile operators around the world to provide free or discounted data access when subscribers use Facebook messaging.

The social network has arrangements with 18 mobile operators in 14 countries to provide special pricing for usage of Messenger for Android, Messenger for iOS and Facebook for Every Phone. Facebook recently updated its feature phone application to be optimized for chat and added a number of new features to Messenger, including voice messaging and the ability to create a Messenger account without a Facebook profile.

The social network is making a big global push for its messaging service this year. As the company seeks its next billion users, messaging is going to be a key feature that draws people in. With so many alternatives — from SMS and email to apps like WhatsApp or WeChat — Facebook has a lot to compete against. Now, it’s hoping that subsidizing usage by partnering with mobile providers will give it an edge in emerging markets.

Facebook has used this strategy before, working with carriers in the past to provide free access to 0.facebook.com or Facebook for Every Phone. There’s also the recent Talktime program in India, which gives 50 Rupees (almost $1) in calling credits to users who sign up for Facebook on their mobile devices. Users also get an additional 50 Rupees for every user they refer who signs up to Facebook with a mobile device.

The companies involved with this latest messaging promotion include TMN in Portugal, Three in Ireland, Airtel and Reliance in India, Vivacom in Bulgaria, Backcell in Azerbaydzhan, Indosat, Smartfren, AXIS and XL Axiata in Indonesia, SMART in Philippines, DiGi in Malaysia, DTAC in Thailand, Viva in Bahrain, STC in Saudi Arabia, Oi in Brazil, Etisalat in Egypt, and Tre in Italy.

Facebook says messaging is one of the most popular activities on the social network, with three out of every four people on Facebook send a message on the platform each month.

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