LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS 2014: The GSMA has revealed it is to work alongside Facebook on making mobile internet services affordable for the billions of consumers in developing markets who currently lack a service.
The announcement came just a day after Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO, outlined his plans for Internet.org – a Facebook initiative whose ultimate goal is to connect everybody on the planet – during a Monday-afternoon keynote session at the Mobile World Congress.
The GSMA is to support Facebook’s Internet.org partnership – whose founding members also include Ericsson, Qualcomm and Samsung – on persuading governments in developing markets to create a more investor-friendly environment for the mobile industry.
Facebook sees mobile as a priority because it represents the default means of communication for most people in emerging markets, where the cost of building out fixed lines is often seen as prohibitive. The GSMA reckons some 3.4 billion people now own mobile phones.
Speaking at Mobile World Congress, Zuckerberg said many customers in emerging markets had already demonstrated a willingness to pay for mobile internet services.
Across a number of markets, however, governments have imposed new taxes on mobile operators, driving up prices and putting internet access beyond the reach of most consumers. The GSMA and Facebook are urging governments to scrap or reduce these levies.
Research previously carried out by the GSMA indicates that mobile taxes are restricting the growth of the industry and dissuading consumers from taking up mobile services, while Facebook believes that greater availability of internet services would spur GDP growth and lead to improvements in health conditions and educational opportunities.
The GSMA and Facebook said they also intend to look at other ways of making services more affordable, such as freeing up spectrum for mobile broadband services and fostering the development of local internet content.