Facebook offers free mobile talktime in India to woo users

New subscribers are being offered close to US$1 to sign up

Facebook is offering mobile users the Indian rupee equivalent of nearly US$1 in free talk time to sign up to the social networking service, in a bid to increase its subscribers in the country.

India had 908 million mobile subscribers at the end of August, according to data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. About 63 percent of these are urban subscribers who are using Internet services including accessing social networks like Facebook and Twitter on their mobile phones.

About one-third of Facebook's users access the social network using their mobile phones, Facebook said in June.

The offer of free talk time may not prove to be an incentive for users to stay on Facebook once they sign up, as they are likely to take advantage of the offer only to benefit from the rupees 50 freebie, according to analysts.

Facebook ranks third after Google's international search web site google.com and the India version in a monthly ranking of the top websites in the country by web information company Alexa. The rank is calculated using a combination of average daily visitors and pageviews over the past month.

Facebook said in a regulatory filing in July that it had 59 million monthly average users in India as of June 30, 2012, an increase of 84 percent compared to the same period in 2011.

The social networking site could not be immediately reached for comment.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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