Facebook teamed with local MVNO Virgin Mobile Mexico for the latest launch of Free Basics, the product of its internet.org initiative, as it attempts to reach the half of the country’s population who are not online.
Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s founder, announced the launch on his Facebook page.
“Now half of the population who are unconnected will have free access to internet services for education, health, jobs and communication on the Virgin Mobile network,” he said.
“I believe spreading internet access will not only create opportunities in Mexico, but also create more understanding of this great country and its people.”
According to GSMA Intelligence, Mexico has almost 105 million mobile connections and a population of 126 million (end-Q3 2015 figures).
Facebook’s strategy is about bringing unconnected users online by offering a set of internet content for no access cost, particularly in emerging markets. Africa has been a key focus for the company following internet.org’s introduction in 2013, along with launches in the Philippines, India and Bangladesh.
Backing up the move, Zuckerberg noted that Mexico is indeed “more advanced in Latin America in terms of connectivity… so it’s crazy to think that there are 60 million people who do not have access to the internet”, according to El Financiero.
The rollout also represents something of a milestone for the social media giant, after it tried to bring the service to the country earlier this year, before reportedly being turned down by market leader America Movil.
Virgin Mobile launched its MVNO in Mexico in 2014 and uses Telefonica’s network to deliver its service. It is a relatively small player in the country’s mobile market.
Zuckerberg added that Free Basics is now available in more than 30 countries, with more than 15 million people, who were previously unconnected, now using the internet.
It launched Free Basics as a more open alternative to internet.org after the original initiative was met with criticism in some markets for going against net neutrality principles.