Access to WhatsApp, BBM, Facebook now free for UAE’s prepaid mobile customers

UAE’s oldest telecom operator Etisalat has launched a new prepaid promotion, offering free access to Facebook, WhatsApp, BBM and Twitter with every recharge.

This comes within days of the new operator, Du, offering a similar promotion to its pre-paid customers.

Etisalat has gone one up on Du by maintaining that its offer “has no conditions attached to usage or expiry of the recharged credit balance, therefore customers do not risk losing their credit”. On the other hand, the Du promotion limits validity of talk time only until the validity of social package.

Etisalat maintains that “social networking is the hottest trend in recent times and continues to grow exponentially in the UAE.”

The telecom operator cites a survey conducted with university students in the UAE by two Zayed University professors, James Buie and David Bulla, which found that a vast majority (72 per cent) of the respondents use social media at least 21 hours a week.

Socializing with friends was the main use of social media and communicating with family was the second greatest reason stated by respondents of that survey.

Etisalat says its new promotion addresses the growing demand of its customers to access social networking apps anytime, anywhere, powered by 3G and 4G mobile networks.

“Social media is not only helping our customers engage with each other, but also in staying connected with trends and changes in their environment,” said Khaled ElKhouly, Chief Marketing Officer at Etisalat.

“In addition to the free data advantage with every recharge to access social media apps, it gives Wasel customers subscribing to this offer the freedom to use their talk time at their own pace. They will not lose their credit,” he added.

Social media in the UAE

Facebook: The UAE tops the regional rankings across several social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, consistently having one of the highest user penetration users in the region. The UAE has more than 5 million active Facebook users, according to the UAE social media outlook 2014 report, compiled by the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG).

The report highlights that he UAE is at the forefront of Arab countries when it comes to the utilisation of technologies such as social media in the provision of public services, whether for citizen engagement, innovation, or intergovernmental collaboration. 

The number of Facebook users in the UAE has tripled from 1.6 million in 2010 to 5 million in October 2014 – a growth of 200 per cent – with 3.3 million people joining Facebook over that period.

The UAE has consistently, since 2010 when Facebook data collection first started, been ranked first or second among all Arab countries in terms of Facebook penetration, and been one of the top 10 largest Facebook populations in the Arab world. 

LinkedIn: Since early 2012, when LinkedIn data collection first started, the UAE has emerged as the country with the highest LinkedIn penetration in the Arab region. The number of users has increased from over 860,000 in February 2012 to roughly 2.1 million in October 2014, with a growth of 142 per cent, or 1.2 million users during that period.

Twitter: While Twitter doesn’t divulge information about the number of users per country, it is estimated that the UAE had about 500,000 active Twitter users by the end of last year. “Our results reveal UAE to be a nation of Twitter users tuned into what’s happening locally and who express their feelings on Twitter,” it said in a statement.

WhatsApp: The UAE is ranked among the top 10 worldwide in WhatsApp adoption rate. The WhatsApp adoption rate is the percentage of mobile internet users who are active WhatsApp users. In the UAE, that’s 63 per cent, which puts it ahead of countries such as Italy, Germany and the UK (62, 57 and 34 per cent, respectively).


Etisalat’s Free Social Data promotion

Recharge Credit

Free Social Data

Duration of the FREE social data ( from day of recharge)

Validity of Recharge Credit


AED 5 – AED 9

Free Access to Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, BBM

1 days

Does not expire


AED 10 – AED 19

3 days


AED 20 – AED 49

10 days


AED 50  – AED 99

30 days


AED 100 & more

60 days




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