Mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) FreedomPop has announced that it will offer zero-rated WhatsApp access in over 30 countries.

The company is best known for offering SIM cards with completely free basic mobile service plans, and is now moving into a new area in a bid to drive signups. Zero-rating refers to the practice of not charging for data used by a certain service in order to encourage its use.

FreedomPop
Image source: FreedomPop

Zero-rated WhatsApp access in the U.S. and 30 other countries

Zero-rating is used by various mobile networks, and is often the result of an agreement between a service provider and a company aimed at driving use of the app. It is common in developing markets, where free access to knowledge-based services like Wikipedia is offered.

Since its foundation in 2012 FreedomPop has built a reputation around giving away small numbers of texts, calls and mobile data with the aim of upselling to customers who need more. Until last September the company had focused on the U.S. market, although that changed with the launch of the UK service and the April rollout in Spain.

In Spain the company offered free, unlimited access to WhatsApp. “We are looking at similar models in other countries,” FreedomPop CEO Stephen Stokols told VentureBeat at the time, and it has become apparent that the U.S. will get the same treatment.

FreedomPop aiming to attract new users

“There really is no reason anyone should have to pay for voice and text in today’s environment,” explained Chris Chen, FreedomPop’s SVP of product. “Over-the-top communication services like WhatsApp have eliminated the need for traditional voice and text services that carriers still force U.S. users to pay hundreds of dollars a year for,” he said. “The zero-rated model is gaining traction in more developing countries, and FreedomPop is leading the way here in the U.S.”

Various mobile operators around the world have started offering zero-rated WhatsApp access, but it has so far been seen mainly in developing markets. Interestingly FreedomPop has not partnered with anyone, including WhatsApp, on the new scheme.

Those who sign up will be able to use WhatsApp for free in 30 countries around the world, alongside their normal SIM card. As it stands the FreedomPop core package includes 100 voice minutes, 500 SMS and 200MB additional data, and the addition of free WhatsApp makes it very attractive indeed.