On June 27, Malaysian mobile telco service provider U Mobile announced that its prepaid subscribers can now earn Facebook Credits as part of a reward scheme. This is the first agreement Facebook has ever made with an Asian telco in offering its official virtual currency.
In the agreement, U Mobile has been allocated 1 million Facebook Credits to give to its subscribers whenever they top up their U Mobile accounts. For every RM20 (US$6.55) reload or more, U Mobile users will get two Facebook Credits, and every subsequent RM10 reload would get them one Credit.
Each user can earn up to 20 Facebook Credits per day, with a monthly cap of 50 Facebook Credits. Users will get to redeem their Credits via a customised redemption app on Facebook, into which they will have to put in a redemption code received via SMS.
In Malaysia, U Mobile is the youngest player in the competitive telco space dominated by the likes of Maxis, Celcom and DiGi. In March, its chief executive officer Dr Kaizad Heerjee said that it currently had less than 1% market share and was looking at increasing it to 3% to 5% this year by aggressively expanding their network coverage, including adding 2,000 to 3,000 more base stations on top of the 1,000 stations it has currently.
So why did the world’s largest social network team up with a minor Malaysian telco player? The answer is Ganesh Kumar Bangah, the Group Chief Executive Officer at MOL Global, the parent company of MOL AccessPortal and Friendster. MOL’s principal shareholder in turn is Vincent Tan, who is the Chairman of Berjaya Corporation and U Mobile.
The deal would see U Mobile working together with MOL Accessportal as the official distributor of Facebook Credits in Southeast Asia.
The seeds of this partnership was first mentioned in August 4, 2010 by GigaOm when MOL Global made a deal with Facebook to sell Friendster’s patents. Quoting a source familiar with the matter, Facebook negotiated with MOL to buy the patents in a deal that included advertising, cash, and the introduction of MOL’s payment service as a way of obtaining Credits. The patent deal was believed to be worth about US$40 million.
“MOL was able to approximately cover the cost of its purchase while gaining a powerful new partner,” wrote InsideFacebook’s Eric Eldon.
Using Facebook Credits, users can now buy virtual goods and add-ons to popular social games like Zynga’s CityVille and FarmVille. In January this year, Facebook announced that from July 1, all social-game developers to process payments through Facebook Credits.
According to Lim Yung Hui of GreyReview, there are more than 130 million Facebook users in Asia, presenting MOL Accessportal with a head start in capturing the Asian market.
“In coming months, there will be more Asian companies looking to enhance their brand experiences, via creative usage of Facebook Credits. Using the virtual currency as rewards is one of the many possibilities,” he wrote.