Internet.Org: Small Data Bites Into the Digital Divide?

There appears to be one crucial new element in the new Facebook-driven partnership aimed at bringing affordable Internet access to parts of the world that simply can't afford to spend tens or hundreds of dollars a month to get online.

The newly announced Internet.Org group, which counts Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Facebook , MediaTek Inc. (Taiwan: 2454), and Samsung Corp. among its members, says it wants to get the 5 billion people in the world not currently online connected. (See Facebook Et Al Aim to Bridge Digital Divide.)

To that end, the group rightfully focuses on mobile devices as the major conduit for most of the rest of the world's population to get to the Internet. The new wrinkle, however, is pushing the development of applications, devices, and infrastructure that uses less -- not more -- wireless data.

The project says this in its introductory release:

Partners will invest in tools that dramatically reduce the amount of data required to use most apps and Internet experiences. Potential projects include developing data compression tools, enhancing network capabilities to more efficiently handle data, building systems to cache data efficiently, and creating frameworks for apps to reduce data usage.

In other words, creating applications and devices that graze data, reduce signaling loads, and give the best connection possible without blowing through a user's limited budget. Quite a different philosophy from many of the data capped, bandwidth blowout apps, and plans found in the US and beyond.

It's early days for Internet.Org yet but the interest in data efficiency is worth keeping an eye on. Who knows, it might even trickle back to more established 4G networks in the end.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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DanJones 8/23/2013 | 1:17:14 PM
Re: Divide Re: content  players pay-to-play

I would have said a couple of years ago that such an approach was unlikely. But given all that Google is already spending to develop networks and mobile devices, I'm not so sure now...
@jopocop 8/22/2013 | 5:10:07 PM
Divide If the content makers, like Google, FB, Netflix, and simular others pay for some of the cost of building telecom networks, by paying transit fees, then the ultimate consuming public in the world can see cell towers built or fiber run to their homes.  
DanJones 8/22/2013 | 12:16:52 PM
Restrictions [Cynic] Probably not a helpful game plan for Facebook in the long-run if users can't get to online ads they click on via Facebook [/Cynic]
gfinnie 8/22/2013 | 11:48:46 AM
Another solution It's worth noting that one solution already pretty widely deployed in emerging markets is to use DPI and policy tools to restrict the applications that customers can access, at a reduced rate, or provide them "free". Ironically, one of the most successful plans restricts users to just using a social networking site-- like Facebook. Google FreeZone is another. 
DanJones 8/22/2013 | 11:29:10 AM
Re: Needs a plan Yeah, its a grand statement, not a strategy right now.
DanJones 8/22/2013 | 11:28:32 AM
Re: divide On the other side, if you go to Peru or other parts of South America people are trying to pay less than $10 a month for service and $20 to $50 for a handset. That IS market rates for them, that's what they can afford.
DanJones 8/22/2013 | 11:26:09 AM
Re: divide That's part of the plan, cheaper, more efficient networks.
R Clark 8/22/2013 | 2:12:26 AM
Needs a plan Hope this is more successful than Zuckerberg's last attempt at civics, fwd.us.

He's signed up the right companies but hard to see what they're going to do as a group that they're not already doing. They already heavily invested in developing markets.

Needs to show a plan pretty soon.
@jopocop 8/22/2013 | 1:57:40 AM
Re: divide I kind of look at the cost of signing up for a mobile wireless connection as akin to buying a car and becoming ready to deal with buying gasoline, insurance, maintence, registration, etc.  The operators ultimately are going to charge market rates, the laws of supply and demand kick in, along with the fact there is only so much oil in the world, or should I say spectrum available in the world.  Anyway, I favor this initiative, but for the moment it seems more like a political campaign so that after the election happens, reality check kicks in and politicians hope to get 50% of what they promised.  
F,Alpizar 8/22/2013 | 12:40:45 AM
Re: divide Hopefully, they will also have some interest in deploying new networks, with low cost infrastructure.  No matter how small you make the need, you need conectivity.
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