Vodafone Rejects Requests For Free Access To Facebook

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao says Facebook asked him to carry its data for free on the Vodafone network in developing countries, by dropping the social network from data plans

Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao says he rejected a request from Facebook to carry the social network for free in developing countries.

Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg asked the operator to ‘zero rate’ the social network’s content, meaning it would not count towards a subscribers’ data plan in certain countries. Facebook wants to expand into emerging markets in order to increase its user base, but many people in the developing world use mobile phones to access the Internet and are concerned about the cost of data.

The company has already agreed similar deals with some operators in these countries, often for a promotional period of around six months. The upside for the operators is that they can tempt users to use more data after the period has expired, but Vodafone does not see how it would benefit.

Zuck Off, Facebook!

Vodafone headquarters germany © Joe Dejvice ShutterstockColao says that he is sure every content provider would like to be excluded from users’ data plans as this would increase traffic, but such a move would not fit in with Vodafone’s business model.

“It does not make any sense,” The Financial Times quotes him as saying. “[There] is no reason why I should give my network capacity for free.”

The Vodafone CEO is more receptive to proposals for a sponsored or paid-for model, but only if operators do not discriminate, meaning that if such a deal is offered to one social network, it must be available to another.

Last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg launched Internet.org along with a number of other technology firms, with the stated aim of making Internet access cheaper for people around the world using their smartphones and mobiles – presumably to increase the number of global Facebook accounts.

Facebook has acquired Israeli mobile data compression specialist Onavo to help achieve this goal and Zuckerberg is due to speak at Mobile World Congress, where it is possible he will discuss his ambition of improving access to the Internet – and his social network.

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