Barcelona: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Tuesday offered to partner with telecom operators to expand internet access, while lauding the efforts of Indian giant Airtel and other telcos on this front.
Trying to woo telecom operators, he said: "It is really important not to lose sight of the fact that the real companies that are driving this are the operators... The only way to accelerate that is to help operators to grow their business."
"The reason why we're here in Barcelona is because the folks who are here, who are part of this industry, are the ones leading the charge to connect everyone in the world and have been for decades," he said.
Facebook has helped set up with mobile equipment industry's backing two years ago Internet.Org, which aims to make basic Internet services available to the nearly two-thirds of the world's population who are not yet connected.
"There's a long legacy and history and sense of mission in the industry. And that's why these folks are doing all the work to lay the fibre and build the towers to actually get this done," Zuckerberg said at the Mobile World Congress here.
Through the Internet.Org app, more than 500 million people in six countries can now access useful health, employment and local information services without data charges, he said.
In this context he quoted India's largest mobile operator Airtel, which has also operations in Africa. "In Zambia, Kenya and Ghana, Airtel saw the number of people using data and data usage increase, and both voice and SMS activity grew across Africa."
In India, Internet.Org has tied with RCom to provide free access to data services.
His comments come in the backdrop of telcos complaining that search engines and social networking sites and new communication apps are piggybacking on the huge investments made by operators on their mobile and fixed-line networks.
The group seeks to work with operators to offers free or subsidised Internet access to increase usage based on the bet the operators will eventually be able to turn free users into paying customers.
"We can help because Facebook is one of the primary apps people want to use, so therefore it drives data usage and means we can effectively partner with operators in order to accelerate the growth of their businesses," Zuckerberg said.