Facebook Promotes Internet for Next 5 Billion

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Facebook CEO of Mark Zuckerberg, today announced the launch of internet.org, a global partnership with the goal of making internet access available to the next 5 billion people.

“Everything Facebook has done has been about giving all people around the world the power to connect,” Zuckerberg said. “There are huge barriers in developing countries to connecting and joining the knowledge economy.

According to Mark Zuckerberg (pdf), connectivity is a human right:

In many countries, the cost of a data plan is vastly more expensive than the price of a smartphone. In the US, for example, an iPhone with a typical two-year data plan costs about $2,000, where about $500-$600 of that is the phone and about $1,500 is the data.

The goal of Internet.org is to make internet access available to the two-thirds of the world who are not yet connected. “A global partnership will work to overcome these challenges, including making internet access available to those who cannot currently afford it,” according to Zuckerberg.

The founding members of internet.org — Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung — will develop joint projects, share knowledge, and mobilize industry and governments to bring the world online.

Qualcomm has a piece of Alcatel-Lucent’s lightRadio which will include Qualcomm’s FSM9900 chipsets, with peak LTE data rates of 300 Mbps (4×4 MIMO). Those small cell base stations support 3G, 4G and WiFi networks, to serve the anticipated 1000x growth in mobile data traffic.

Conspicuous by their absence are Google, Microsoft and Amazon, to name three content companies, as well as telecom infrastructure companies like NSN, ZTE and Huawei.

Internet.org is influenced by the successful Open Compute Project, an industry-wide initiative that has lowered the costs of cloud computing by making hardware designs more efficient and innovative.

The mobile broadband market is valued at USD 1 trillion, according to a report by Yankee Group. By the end of 2013, Yankee Group forecasts 114 million active LTE connections globally, increasing to 258 million by the end of 2014. But the price of mobile devices and services will need to come down dramatically to connect the next billion people, according to the CEOs of Nokia, Qtel, Bharti Airtel, and Mozilla.

Internet.org will focus on three key challenges in developing countries:

  • Making access affordable: Partners will collaborate to develop and adopt technologies that make mobile connectivity more affordable and decrease the cost of delivering data to people worldwide. Initiatives include lower-cost smartphones and partnerships to more broadly deploy internet access in underserved communities.
  • Using data more efficiently: Partners will invest in tools that dramatically reduce the amount of data required to use most apps and internet experiences.
  • Helping businesses drive access: Partners will support development of sustainable new business models and services that make it easier for people to access the internet. This includes testing new models that align incentives for mobile operators, device manufacturers, developers and other businesses to provide more affordable access.

Today, only 2.7 billion people – just over one-third of the world’s population — have access to the internet, with adoption growing by less than 9% each year.

No specifics are mentioned, but one might speculate that Samsung and Nokia could utilize the Opera browser and a more open HTML-friendly OS such as Tizen, while chip companies Qualcomm and MediaTek might develop 3G/4G world phones, while Ericsson could develop low energy small cell technology.

Advertising may be a better business model for broadband wireless.

LTE is the triple play. It’s faster and cheaper than copper. Cynics might point out that carriers, the ITU, and governments are in bed together. That may mean “free”, ad-sponsored broadband will have to come from the bottom up.

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Posted by Sam Churchill on Wednesday, August 21st, 2013 at 8:57 am .

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