Stephen Stokols, CEO and co-founder of disruptive MVNO FreedomPop, blasted Facebook for its “selfish motivation” behind internet.org, as he urged operators to embrace a data strategy centred on zero-rated offerings.
FreedomPop, which offers limited mobile services to its users for free, boldly claimed last month it had done what Facebook failed to do with internet.org in Europe, after launching WhatsApp messaging and calling on its network in Spain completely free of charge, regardless of usage.
Speaking to Mobile World Live in an exclusive interview, Stokols opened up on FreedomPop’s wider approach to embrace OTT services within the company’s unique business model, as he hit out at Facebook’s strategy of “white labelling their own service so people use it for free.”
“Internet.org is basically trying to get to the same end game as us. We’re doing it by working with operators to get them to whitelist WhatsApp or Facebook, and coming at it from the operator position, and that is by creating a new business model that works for them,” he said. “There is huge penetration of WhatsApp in Spain, and an operator can either break that, or do what we have done, which is create a freemium model which works and actually embrace it.
Stokols added FreedomPop was keen not to have “formal relationships” with anybody, as a way to keep it safe from the well-publicised problems Facebook has encountered over internet.org in India for example.
“Some of the issues Facebook has experienced is because they are giving preferential treatment to certain services,” he said. “For us it’s a proposition. We are saying you can have this free WhatsApp plan. It’s slightly different than going to a carrier and asking them to offer Facebook, and nothing else for free, then paying for that behind closed doors. In this case we are staying at arms length from everybody.”
In the interview, Stokols opened up on how FreedomPop was beginning to work with operators to fuel new data-driven business models , how he came up with the idea, the company’s funding and growth objectives, and why he hopes FreedomPop will one day get to the stage where it “doesn’t make any money from data at all”.
Click here to read the full interview.