Facebook already has about 65 million Facebook users in India — roughly half the broadband population. With about 900 million mobile connections in the country, the emergence of cheap smart feature phones with dedicated Facebook apps is only going to dramatically increase the Facebook user population. If — and this is my guess — there is a cheaper Android phone that is specially Facebook friendly, this could boost the revolution further.
The bottomline is that Facebook is in effect becoming a standard for social connectivity — the way Windows became a standard platform for desktop computing for at least two decades.
This has significant implications. As Ewan Spence says at Forbes.com: “There is one group that should be worried about the disruption Facebook’s mobile play will have on their business. That group is the mobile phone network operators.”
The reason is that paid text messages (SMSes) will be replaced by Facebook messages. All you need is a data plan. Last year, Facebook allowed Android users to create a Messenger account with just a name and phone number to reach out to mobile contacts.
If Facebook Phone happens as a cheaper, easier device, with voice/video to boot, and as Messenger connects up wider, both SMS and Skype (used to make cheap international calls) could be hit. BlackBerry Messenger and apps such as WhatsApp that connect phone users across platforms may also suffer.
My guess is that rather than take on telecom service providers, Facebook will go for partnerships with them so that they will make money on data plans.