Facebook Inc. plans to offer free basic internet on mobile phones to boost usage.
The world’s biggest social network has introduced the service in 17 developing countries in the past year.
Reuters is reporting that Facebook will open a portal allowing any mobile operator to offer the service under its Internet.org platform.
Facebook partners with specific operators to launch the service in different countries.
Internet.org has brought more than nine million people online over the past year, Chris Daniels, vice president of product for Internet.org, said.
Facebook developed the platform with six technology partners to bring an estimated 4.5 billion unconnected people online, mainly in Latin America, Asia and Africa.
It offers pared-down web services for free to users, along with access to Facebook’s own social network and messaging services.
Facebook said the service bought new users onto mobile networks on average over 50 percent faster and that more than half the people using Internet.org are paying for data to access the wider Internet within 30 days.
“This is really a customer acquisition tool for mobile operators where the benefit to them of offering a very light amount of free data is to bring on more paying subscribers to their networks,” Daniels said.
Facebook was not paying for any of the data being used to access the service, he said.
The Internet.org application, launched in India in February in partnership with Reliance Communications, faced backlash with a number of leading technology and internet firms pulling out of the service after activists claimed it violated the principles of a neutral internet.
“I would say India is unique in that respect and very much an outlier. In other markets, Internet.org has been embraced as a pro-connectivity initiative that has garnered a lot of support,” Daniels said.
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