Calibra wallet won’t launch in Facebook’s biggest market

Facebook unveiled its audacious Libra cryptocurrency and Calibra digital wallet on Tuesday, through which it plans to transform financial services across the globe. The social juggernaut made clear its ambitions when it said that it wishes to empower more than 1.7 billion people around the world who currently do not have a bank account.

But potentially an equally large group of people would not be able to use Facebook’s new digital payments service when it begins its rollout next year.

Responding to queries from TechCrunch, a Calibra spokesperson said that the digital wallet will not be rolling out to a number of markets that have taken a stand against cryptocurrency, or are sanctioned by the United States.

“The Libra Blockchain will be global, but it will be up to custodial wallet providers to determine where they will and will not operate. Calibra won’t be available in U.S.-sanctioned countries or countries that ban cryptocurrencies,” the spokesperson told TechCrunch.

TechCrunch understands that India, Facebook’s biggest market, is among the list of countries where Calibra does not intend to launch. Additionally, Calibra isn’t going to be available in China, North Korea and Iran, where Facebook does not currently have a presence. [Update June 20, 12:05pm IST: Calibra won’t launch in India, a spokesperson has confirmed.]

India remains cautious about cryptocurrency. The country’s central bank Reserve Bank of India told the highest court in the nation that it did not want cryptocurrency to spread like a “contagion,” citing potential harms. Last month, the nation proposed a bill that would penalize 10-year jail sentence to those who “mine, hold, sell, transfer, dispose, issue, or deal in cryptocurrencies.”

Earlier this week, Facebook said that Calibra will be available on WhatsApp, Messenger and through a standalone app. In India, this created some additional confusion as WhatsApp already offers a person-to-person payments service in the nation, called WhatsApp Pay. India is the only market where WhatsApp currently offers its payments service.

A WhatsApp spokesperson told TechCrunch that Facebook is committed to the efforts that it has made on WhatsApp Pay, which is built on top of Unified Payments Interface (UPI), a three-year-old government-backed payments infrastructure that is driving hundreds of millions of financial transactions in the nation each month.

WhatsApp’s payments service is currently available to one million users in India, and the Facebook-owned instant messaging giant is working with the government for a nationwide rollout.