Facebook's Zuckerberg cites Globe as pioneer

Posted at 02/25/2014 9:30 AM | Updated as of 02/25/2014 6:12 PM
Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg smiles before delivering a keynote speech during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Photo by Albert Gea, Reuters

MANILA, Philippines - Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg cited Globe Telecom as a pioneer in providing free internet during a packed forum in Mobile World Conference, the mobile industry's biggest annual convention in Barcelona, Spain.

In October, Globe offered a three-month program that gave users free data service for Facebook only. It allowed users to use all or most of Facebook's functions -- posting, commenting, liking, chatting.

If you clicked on a link that led out of Facebook, you'd get an offer for you to buy data service. As much as the the partnership, whose details weren't disclosed, industry players and watchers were excited or shaken by a picture of Globe CEO Ernest Cu and Consumer Business Advisor Peter Bithos with Zuckerberg at Facebook headquarters.

"Once we can make a profitable model that works for Globe, we think it will be an easy problem to solve to add other services like weather or wikipedia," Zuckerberg said on Monday in Barcelona, according to a report on BusinessInsider.com.

"We want to find 3 or 5 more partners in the next year who can deliver basic services for free," he said.

Also reporting on the forum with Zuckerberg, PCWorld.com says aside from Globe, Facebook is also working with Paraguay's Tigo on a project called Internet.org to provide free or cheap internet service.

Zuckerberg seemed to suggest this was part of his vision to provide free basic internet around the world.

"We want to create a dial tone for the internet," Zuckerberg said, according to BusinessInsider.

According to the news website, the social media tycoon said he wanted people to be able to pick up their mobile phone the way they would pick up a landline and there would be a dial tone that would allow them to make a 911 emergency call.

He said while 80 percent of the world's population live in places with 2G or 3G service, very few are on the internet and the growth there is slower than many people would think. He said it needed to be cheaper to own and use a smartphone.

PCWorld said this was Zuckerberg's bid to be the "on ramp" to internet use for the two-thirds of the world who still aren't on it.

Facebook would, of course, benefit from that. Fourth quarter sales and profit surged as it "cracked the code," according to some analysts, on mobile advertising. Mobile advertising crossed the halfway mark, hitting 53 percent of revenue in the fourth quarter, from 49 percent in the third quarter.

Globe is still trying to make free internet the "commercial success" Zuckerberg described.

According to PCWorld.com, Globe's Bithos said the free Facebook program, which has been extended, has doubled the number of subscribers using their phones to access the Internet. He said while the program hasn't lost money, it's not very profitable either.