Facebook aims to connect the “next billion”

In his MWC conference keynote, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg focused on how the social network will lead the charge to connect the next billion.

During his talk, the CEO argues that the outstanding barrier in connecting people to the Internet in emerging markets is no longer the cost of phones, but expensive data plans.

“The only way this will change is if more operators introduce unlimited bundles with free access to basic Internet services like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, along the lines of the bundle Globe Telecom offers in the Philippines,” claims Eden Zoller, principal analyst, Ovum.

“Messaging services, social networking, and search will in turn be the key platforms for offering access to a wider range of Internet services. Zuckerberg says Facebook wants to enable direct access to basic Internet services the way that 911 does for emergency services.”

Zoller says Facebook wants other operators to adopt a model like Globe Telecom’s – which offers all the major global OTT messaging services for free as part of its core call and text bundle – and is looking to work with three to five operator partners over the next year.

But whether operators will buy into Facebook’s vision remains to be seen.

“Zuckerberg’s proposal is Facebook-centric, with the social network and OTT players reaping the immediate benefits,” Zoller adds.

“The direct monetisation prospects for telcos are thin, a point Zuckerberg admitted by conceding the model needs fine tuning to strengthen the business case for operators.

“There are of course indirect benefits to carriers, such as the increased mobile Internet usage and subscriber gains experienced by Globe Telecom, but the question remains as to whether this will be enough to counter the negative impact OTT services are having on operators.”

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