Facebook is making a big push for providing better access to the Internet from emerging markets, with its Internet.org initiative. In line with this, the company has made a deal with Philippine telecom provider Globe Telecom, to offer free access to the social network even without a data plan subscription.
According to Peter Bithos, Senior Advisor – Consumer Business, Globe Telecom, the company has been working with Facebook for a few months now, in order to “plan and design the customer experience from scratch.” However, links that open outside the Facebook domain will incur a premium access charge. The promotion, as per Bithos, “will pave way for subscribers to easily subscribe to a data plan without having to leave Facebook, and allowing data access lending for subscribers who don’t have enough prepaid load to continue browsing links outside Facebook.”
Through the Facebook and Globe offer, users on smartphones and data-enabled feature phones can access Facebook for free and without worry that app usage will eat up their data plans or prepaid credits.
In an interview with e27, Bithos said the telco has actually been working closely with Facebook for more than a year now. The partnership between Facebook and Globe pre-dates the Internet.org effort and teams from both companies have been working to optimize the Facebook applications to include special code that enables free access through Globe’s pipes.
Fixing the customer experience
“Facebook and Globe share a common vision,” Bithos told e27. “We have broken down the poor customer experiences in all our previous offerings in order to learn from these, and we are focusing on giving value to the consumer in their social networking and communications needs.”
He stresses three major points that make this effort interesting:
Bithos added that even users who are already on data plans or subscriptions will benefit from the free offer, because any access to Facebook will not count against their data usage.
e27 queried Bithos about the concern with data leakage that is a common woe among smartphone users. He says that it is an issue that telecommunication providers too consider a challenge. “It is a challenging issue, and we are actually encouraging OS makers to help us solve it,” he said. “As a carrier, we have done some things to mitigate that,” Bithos added, and these include offering inexpensive prepaid data plans and implementing a ceiling on post-paid data charges when subscribed to bucket pricing.
Still, smartphones will inevitably consume small amounts of data with background services or push notification. Globe is therefore encouraging users to either manually turn off their data connectivity or background pinging or sign up for data bundles or plans.
Globe did not disclose usage figures and trends with regard to its earlier Free Zone partnership with Google. However, the network is using that partnership as a jumping board for its upcoming offerings. “We are very happy with our partnership with Google for Free Zone, and we have actually learned a lot through the process and applied these with our new Facebook partnership,” Bithos said.
Free access starts on October 31, and will last for three months. After this period, Bithos said that the network will continue to find means to improve Internet access at low or zero cost. He also stressed that the free Facebook offer is just one of Globe’s Christmas presents to its 35 million subscribers, and will be announcing more promos in the coming months.