Facebook sees growth in Asia despite India's ban on Free Basics

By Staff Writer

Mar 16, 2016 06:17 AM EDT

Despite India banning Free Basics service, Facebook Inc is still optimistic about growth potential in Asia as its number of users is increasing much faster in the region than other parts of the world. Facebook is facing controversy over free internet service in India. 

The latest controversy over free internet service in India doesn't seem to be bothering Facebook Inc. Asian region has 540 million users out of the total Facebook's 1.59 billion monthly active users as of December 2015. The number of users in Asia rose from 449 million from the previous corresponding month. 

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports that Facebook is quickly adding numbers in Asia as the growth rate of users is 20 percent as against its global average of 14 percent. Mark Zuckerberg, Chief Executive of Facebook Inc, in last October said India was home to over 130 million users and it's second largest user population after the US. Twitter has 142 million monthly active users in India.

Facebook in February announced over $1 billion quarterly profit for the first time. Soon after this encouraging performance, it received a jolt from the Indian government as telecommunications regulator has banned the controversial Free Basics service, which has been designed to get unconnected users online.

India's telecom regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) says Facebook's initiative has violated the principles of net neutrality. Dan Neary said "It was disappointing that Free Basics didn't get the ruling that we had hoped."

The Economic Times further adds quoting TRAI that no service provider is allowed to charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content. Zuckerberg has expressed his disappointment over TRAI's decision. However, Zuckerberg has reiterated his commitment to do business in India and Asia. Zuckerberg prefers to work to ease off barriers to connectivity in India.

Neary, Facebook's vice president for Asia Pacific, said "The potential is greater in Asia-Pacific than it is in any other region because we've got two thirds of the world's population and it's all mobile."

Connecting India is an important objective for Facebook. Considering the huge population of over one billion, India doesn't have access to internet as it's required for people, says Zuckerberg. On the other side, the Indian government says internet shouldn't become the monopoly of few. Facebook is able to offer Free Basics services to more than a billion people across Asia, Africa and Latin America, as reported by Zee News.

Facebook's Free Basics service is available in several countries. This service allows users to browse some sites and apps without paying for mobile data. India's telecom operators such as Reliance Communications have subsidized this data access in India. Facebook has three million active advertisers globally with 50 percent growth rate. Southeast Asia is currently the fastest growing market for Facebook.

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