Facebook, doing all it can to keep users signing in and staying put, has teamed with GoSmart Mobile, a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that runs on the T-Mobile network. In January, GoSmart will become the first U.S. carrier to offer free, unlimited data access to Facebook and Facebook Messenger to all of its customers. That means even those without a monthly data service plan.
"This is about bringing more value to the budget-minded customer," Gavin Dillon, vice president of MVNO and National Accounts at T-Mobile, told eWEEK. "And really, 48 percent of people using Facebook are accessing it via their mobile phones. So, it just makes sense that anyone with a phone should be able to access Facebook and without a data limit."
GoSmart's primary pitch is that (not unlike T-Mobile) it offers simple, straightforward service ("no DUM fees and no DUM caps") for value-minded users. Plans start at $25 a month for unlimited talk. Unlimited talk and text is $30 a month; unlimited talk, text and Web is $35 a month; and unlimited talk, text and high-speed Web—by which it means 3G, so be aware that the $35 plan is 2G—is $45 a month.
The company launched in March and since then "hundreds of thousands of customers" have signed on, said Dillon, adding that the company doesn't share specific subscriber numbers. "We felt that there was a growing segment of consumers in the U.S. who are really value-focused, and we've been really pleased with the number of customers that we've been able to bring on board."
GoSmart encourages users to bring their own phones—the SIM kit to turn an old iPhone, or any GSM phone, into a GoSmart phone is $8—but it does have three phone models that it can sell to interested parties, and it has promised to eventually beef up its portfolio.
"Facebook's mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected, and we're delighted that GoSmart subscribers, many of whom don't have data access, will be able to use Facebook for free," Chris Daniels, vice president of partnerships at Facebook, said in a Dec. 23 statement.
Facebook these days is facing challenges to keep users Liking and Friending and checking their News Feed, instead of tuning away to Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram and other social-networking apps with growing, young audiences.
An October study by research firm Piper Jaffray found that 26 percent of young people considered Twitter to be their favorite social network, compared with 23 percent who chose Facebook. (Another 23 percent said Instagram.)
On Dec. 17, Facebook announced that it will soon begin including video ads in users' News Feed. It's aggressively overseeing the ads, to ensure that they look great and are an asset to the site. And it promised that the videos will only download when a user is connected to a WiFi hotspot, so the ads are never sipping from a user's data plan.
For GoSmart Mobile subscribers that, and any videos their actual friends post, won't be an issue.