Facebook Inc said it’s expanding its Free Basics service across Africa. The social network has tied up with wireless carrier Bharti Airtel to provide free mobile data in 17 African countries.
“More than one billion people have access to Internet.org’s free basic services across Asia, Africa and Latin America today,” Chris Daniels, VP of Internet.org, said late Tuesday. “Our intention is to help people in Africa access relevant basic services that will help them improve their lives and also lead to more adoption of the internet.”
Free Basics is part of Facebook’s initiative “to introduce people to the internet and demonstrate how it adds value to their lives.” Airtel customers in those 17 counties will not pay for data through Free Basics. This is a key part of the social network’s aim to provide internet access in developing countries where data costs are restrictive.
“We are cognisant of the power of the internet in changing lives of communities and this partnership with Facebook will aid in bringing more people online and reduce the digital divide,” Christian de Faria, MD and CEO of Airtel Africa, said in Cape Town.
Facebook Laying the Seeds for Future Business
The Free Basics app provides people in markets like Africa and India with free net access by giving away basic services like Wikipedia and, of course, Facebook.
Facebook Inc also doesn’t have to pay operators like Airtel for such tie-ups. In exchange, mobile carriers hope that users who get a taste of the net through Free Basics will become full-time customers.
It’s a win-win strategy that Facebook has used to roll-out Internet access to over a dozen countries in the last year. Facebook gives free basic net access and collects new users in the process. Operators in return, get to boost their subscriber base.
Whatever be the public posturing, Facebook Inc is laying the groundwork for long term business. The social network needs user growth. But that has saturated in developed countries. The next stop is markets like Asia, Africa and Latin America. But connectivity in those areas is almost non-existent. So Facebook has taken the initiative to connect the unconnected.
Facebook leaves traders waiting for pullback
Facebook’s stock has been a big winner this year. But JMP Securities’ Mark Lehmann says traders might want to hold back until 2016.
“Do you want to own it all today? Probably not,” Lehmann said on CNBC. “But if there’s a chance to get a pullback like we saw in August, September, you want to accumulate shares because Facebook has that kind of market share.”
Shares of Facebook Inc closed Tuesday at $105.13. The stock is up 35% year to date. The past 3 months have seen shares jump 12%.