We’ve been wondering whether the demise of SMS is just around the corner. With the popularity of cross-platform messaging services and platforms, users are gravitating toward a richer messaging experience with the likes of LINE, WeChat, Kakao Talk and even IM stalwarts like Viber and WhatsApp. But in emerging markets, cost considerations are key to success in this business, and Facebook aims to gain traction through offering these messaging services free.

See also: Will instant messaging applications kill SMS in 2013?

The Next Web reports on a Facebook announcement involving the social network’s partnerships with 18 carriers around the world. Through these agreements, the carriers will offer either free or discounted access to Facebook Messenger, mostly in emerging markets. The list is as follows:

  • Europe: TMN in Portugal, Three in Ireland, Vivacom in Bulgaria, Backcell in Azerbaydzhan, Tre in Italy
  • Asia: Airtel and Reliance in India, Indosat, Smartfren, AXIS and XL Axiata in Indonesia, SMART in Philippines, DiGi in Malaysia, DTAC in Thailand
  • Africa and Middle East: Viva in Bahrain, STC in Saudi Arabia, Etisalat in Egypt.
  • Latin America: Oi in Brazil

In its announcement, Facebook said Messenger was among its most popular applications, and that the company has optimized its Facebook for Every Phone app for chat.

“Messaging on Facebook lets people connect with friends and contacts on the go, regardless of what device they are using. Three out of every four people on Facebook send a message on the platform each month, making messaging one of the most popular activities on Facebook.”

This offering applies to the standalone Facebook applications on Android, iOS and Java-enabled feature-phones.

We earlier wrote on Yahoo!’s push to bring content and messaging services to SmartNet users in the Philippines for free, and the Facebook Messenger offering is aligned with these initiatives to offer free or cheap data access in emerging markets. Google earlier launched its FreeZone Powered by Google initiative in three markets, but that was limited to mobile web. In contrast, Facebook’s mobile messenger app provides a better user experience than mobile web.

See also: LINE grows an audience in Hong Kong due to increase in SMS charges

Facebook has not announced details on which carriers will offer the IM service for free or at a discount. This will certainly eat into the carriers’ revenue from SMS, but since that’s already a declining source of revenue, anyway, mobile networks will have to be creative in how they can monetize free messaging apps like Facebook Messenger without implementing prohibitive data charges.