Facebook has announced that the number of mobile users of the site globally has risen 10m to a total of 15m since the beginning of 2008, an indication of the growing number of people accessing social networking sites on mobile. Indeed, a recent upgrade to the mobile site allowing users to comment on a friend's status was used almost 1m times within 24 hours of its launch.
The clear interest in mobile social networking has not gone unnoticed by mobile operators looking to increase usage of their mobile web portals and data packages. In the UK, all five operators have signed distribution deals with Facebook. T-Mobile UK developed a MyFaves morphing application at the start of the year enabling consumers to morph the faces of five friends on Facebook in an attempt to publicise its MyFaves service. Orange UK started to offer its pay-as-you-go users free access to Facebook in April 2008 to promote its Orange World portal. Vodafone UK has launched 'Connect to Friends', a service allowing consumers to send texts and picture messages from the site to mobile. 3UK is even planning the release of a Facebook phone for the Christmas period. In light of dwindling voice revenues, mobile operators are looking to other sources of revenue to increase ARPU. With mobile content, such as music, historically not proving profitable for the operators, they will do well to continue to try to harness the current popularity of social networking to drive data revenues.