MWC 2016: Zuckerberg repeats promise of universal internet

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23 Feb, 2016

Facebook founder isn't deterred by Free Basics' failure in India

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, has reasserted his promises to get the entire planet online, after India blocked the social network's Free Basics web service.

Speaking at Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona yesterday, he said that "Facebook's mission is to connect everyone in the world".

"It's 2016," he said, "and four billion people still don't have access to the internet."

Zuckerberg's dream hit a snag in recent weeks when India decided not to allow Facebook to offer Free Basics, a service that provides free access to certain essential web services (including Facebook), on the grounds of net neutrality.

Zuckerberg was apparently undaunted by the setback, however, saying: "Every country is different. What works in one country doesn't work in the other".

Facebook's Internet.org initiative, which Free Basics was originally part of, has been bouncing other project ideas around, including the potential to beam internet connections down from drones using lasers. However, the company is also targeting much more traditional infrastructure technologies.

It recently launched the Telecom Infra Project, a consortium of tech companies and telcos dedicated to improving and expanding network infrastructure. The project already includes giants such as Intel, Nokia, and Deutsche Telekom.

Collaboration is big on Zuckerberg's agenda for addressing the connectivity problem. He stated that together, the tech community "must finish our real job and ensure that everyone is connected".

Zuckerberg urged telcos to "focus on improving internet connectivity", adding that current 5G networks are nothing more than "faster connections for rich people".

As part of his talk, he also highlighted the potential of virtual reality for social networking, with a particular emphasis on 360-degree video.

He revealed that people have watched more than one million hours of video on Samsung's Gear VR headset, with that number set to increase now that the company is giving away a free Gear VR with every Galaxy S7 pre-order.

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