SMS Death Watch: Facebook Offers Free Data For Messaging

Is the SMS text message dead? Not yet, but Facebook, Google and Apple are all trying to kill it and take its place.

On Sunday Feb. 24, Facebook announced it will begin offering free or discounted data access for users of its Messenger app, which can be found on iOS, Android and through the app Facebook for Every Phone. The discounted service isn't available just yet, but it will be in the next few months.

"Messaging on Facebook lets people connect with friends and contacts on the go, regardless of what device they are using," reads the company's blog post on the subject. "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."

The service will be available in the following countries, through the specified carrier(s):

- Azerbaijan - Backcell
- Bahrain - Viva
- Brazil - Oi
- Bulgaria - Vivacom
- Egypt - Etisalat
- India - Airtel and Reliance
- Ireland - Three
- Indonesia - Indosat, Smartfren, AXIS and XL Axiata
- Italy - Tre
- Malaysia - DiGi
- Philippines - SMART
- Portugal - TMN
- Thailand - DTAC
- Saudi Arabia - STC

Facebook is likely hoping its discounted messaging rates will provide an inroad for the company to compete with other free, cross-platform messaging services such as WhatsApp and Gtalk as they all race to replace traditional text messages. Apple has its own service in the mix with iMessage, but it's been limited by the fact that it only serves iOS-based devices. You can't iMessage an Android phone, which brings up some obvious drawbacks.

Gtalk and Gchat, meanwhile, allow Google to let users communicate virtually anywhere. Chat on your desktop, continue the conversation on your phone or tablet, and keep it going until the dialogue has run its course. Facebook's Messenger app has the potential to allow for similar universality, as it can be used on any mobile device, and obviously it can be used on a desktop, too.

Considering Facebook's vast reach, it's likely the service will see many users. The social network is also experimenting with phone calls as well. Last month, it announced free calling over Wi-Fi or cellular data connection via the Messenger app. If the company's cheap mobile communication offerings take off, it could eventually set the stage for a challenge to phone makers themselves.

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