Zero rating of content–allowing mobile users access to one or more Internet apps without requiring a mobile Internet subscription, is controversial in some quarters as a violation of network neutrality principles.
But, in the Phillippines, zero rating of Facebook has proven to be an effective way of encouraging people to sample Internet apps, and encourage purchase of full Internet access plans.
Facebook and Globe launched the “Free Facebook” campaign in October 2013. The campaign aimed to jumpstart internet usage in the Philippines by offering free access to Facebook.
All Globe subscribers – new and existing – could opt-in to unlimited Facebook on mobile. After the trial, subscribers would upgrade to paid data plans.
Over the course of the first phase, the number of data users on Globe’s network doubled, and the portion of Globe’s prepaid subscriber base who were active on mobile data expanded from 14 percent in September 2013 to 25 percent in November 2014, Facebook and Globe say.
Globe’s Free Facebook campaign (and similar internet outreach efforts by other players in the market), led to a six million increase in the number of active mobile internet users in the Philippines.
During the first phase of the trial, Globe’s user base increased by 17 percent. Along with continuing to use data, these users also shifted core telco spend over to Globe’s network, growing voice and text messaging revenues by five percent.
By the end of the first campaign, prepaid mobile data users grew from 4.8 million to 9.7 million, more than a twofold increase.
During phase one, average revenue per user remained relatively constant, since Globe zero-rated Facebook data usage.
However, the succeeding quarter saw a 34 percent jump in ARPU, as customers converted to paid mobile service.
The percentage of Filipinos who access Facebook only from WiFi–and never from a mobile data network–decreased from 38 percent at the start of the Free Facebook campaign to 17 percent at the end of Free Facebook Phase two.
Comparing third quarter 2013 (pre-Free Facebook phase one) to the third quarter of 2014 (post-Free Facebook phase one) saw a 58 percent increase in mobile browsing revenue on Globe’s network.