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Can Facebook tip the balance of online access for all?

By November 15, 2016 No Comments

I recently attended the first annual Facebook TIP (Telecom Infra Project www.telecominfraproject.com) summit, held at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California on Nov 1st and 2nd, 2016. This was a very interesting gathering of a slightly different than usual telco community, than typically gathers at the plethora of communications-industry oriented conferences and shows. The subtle difference here being the purpose and goal being incubated by Facebook. As the idea behind the TIP initiative is to re-imagine the traditional approach to building and deploying communication networks. They want to effectively disrupt the old, slow and costly way of rolling out networks and thereby ultimately provide more ubiquitous access to more and more people on the planet who currently don’t have any. This is either due to the remoteness of their location or possibly the high cost of access in those difficult to reach places or even in the more densely populated areas.

A lofty idea and a noble pursuit. Alternatively, one could cynically look at the end-game of more subscribers online; translating to more eyeballs on apps such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp etc. This, in turn would ultimately mean more advertising dollars for the Facebook mothership. But when you talk to the Facebook people driving this TIP initiative you get the real feeling they believe there is more to this. Sure, the extra revenue from subscriber growth would not be a bad thing and they acknowledge that, but they truly believe this can make a difference to the world. I got the feeling that they really want to help fulfill the Facebook mission statement (www.facebook.com/facebook/about/ ) enabling them “….to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected…”. Simply put, they genuinely want more people to have access and potential to be online as that is good for those people. And I agree, online access truly in my opinion helps level the global playing field for people. When everyone can have access to the necessary information for learning and education for example, or the ability to stay in touch with family and friends that may have migrated elsewhere then this is not only good for the global economy, it is also good for society.

 So what does this mean for telcos and the internet? Will the TIP initiative mobilize the communications industry to innovate in a new way of thinking? Will service providers and their vendors reimagine ways to enable access and roll it out and manage in a cheaper, more efficient and more prolific way? The answer to this I believe is “Yes” as that is the future regardless of whether Facebook or someone else tries to usher it along at a slightly quicker pace. And companies like Openet that love to embrace change, disrupting the archaic and obsolete ways of doing things in the past, are active in Facebook TIP. The reason is that we want to enable the future sooner and help service providers to speed up their digital journeys. We are excited about helping Facebook and the TIP community achieve this. After all doesn’t everyone deserve the right to be able to connect online.