Zuckerberg Pushes Potential of Internet.org at Telecom Confab

At this week’s Mobile World Congress, Facebook chief exec Mark Zuckerberg explained to a packed crowd why he believes Internet.org will eventually help carriers convince consumers to increase spending on mobile content. The Facebook-backed service, currently available in countries such as Paraguay and Zambia, is designed to offer those in emerging markets free access to the social network and some other online applications. For many new users, this would represent their first time surfing the Internet.

Carriers are hoping that the access will encourage customers to buy separate data packages.

“Growing the Internet is expensive work,” said Zuckerberg. “The only way to accelerate that is to help operators to grow their business.”

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“Zuckerberg’s words are part of efforts to quell growing disquiet among some carriers, particularly in Western countries, who say that Facebook, Google and other Internet companies are taking unfair advantage of carriers’ mobile networks,” explains The New York Times.

“Industry executives say that these Internet services, which are used by billions of individuals each day, do not invest in the costly infrastructure required so that people can access applications on their smartphones.”

Facebook now holds a strong position in messaging (after its WhatsApp acquisition), and some argue that it does not have to contend with the same regulations as traditional operators.

“We want a level playing field,” said Vittorio Colao, Vodafone’s chief exec. “Facebook now has become one of the biggest Internet messaging companies in the world.”

Zuckerberg counters by suggesting that Facebook drives added revenue to carriers since consumers are willing to pay for online services.

“The business of operators used to be voice and messaging, but that has shifted towards data,” explained Zuckerberg. “Apps like Facebook drive data usage, and that’s the future of the business.”