Facebook is partnering with leading Thailand's mobile operator Total Access Communication Plc (DTAC) to bring affordable mobile internet to the country, particularly rural areas. The move is part of its global plan to lure 4 billion unconnected people to connect via Facebook.
The partnership will also help DTAC generate more mobile data revenue from lower-income consumers as middle- and high-income groups already use mobile internet and frequently connect via Facebook.
Facebook expects 85-90 percent of the world's population to access mobile networks in the next two years, said Markku Makelainen, director for global operator partnerships. Globally, Facebook has 1.3 billion active users a month, of which 1 billion access the social media site via mobile devices.
Thailand has 26 million active Facebook users a month. Some 16 million Facebook users in Thailand access the network through mobile devices, 8 million of them using the DTAC network.
More than 90 percent of Thai internet users connect to Facebook. Thais spend an average 2.5 hours per day on Facebook, longer than the amount of time they spend watching TV.
The International Telecommunication Union forecasts 3 billion people will be online by year-end. However, 4 billion are still offline. Facebook will spend billions of dollars to bring affordable internet to rural areas in order to build universal access to the internet.
According to a study by global consulting firm Deloitte, providing online access to people in developing countries will create 140 million jobs and this will eventually help 160 million people stay out of poverty.
Facebook is one of the co-founders of internet.org, an initiative to make the web more affordable and accessible for people in developing nations. It is also working with many mobile and IT operators to give people the technologies and tools they need to share and connect.
"DTAC is the sixth mobile operator in the world to bring more affordable internet to users," said Sigvart Voss Eriksen, chief marketing executive of DTAC. Eriksen said under the collaboration with Facebook, every new prepaid customer using its Happy brand can access Facebook for free for three months and users who top up 60 baht or add on the package will get free Facebook access for three months.
An internal survey by DTAC found 60% of Thais are still not online. The majority (53 percent) said they were unconnected because content did not seem relevant, 20 percent cited expensive devices and 10 percent said mobile data tariffs remained too expensive. "Bringing attractive content and more affordable internet access to people will help Thailand move toward a digital economy," said Eriksen.
By next month, DTAC expects to have the ability to offer mobile data packages that will suit new customer behaviour by using analyses from Facebook.
Senior vice-president Pakorn Pannachet said DTAC will spend 100 million baht on the joint Happy Connections marketing campaign with Facebook over the next six months.