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Facebook's Zuckerberg both woos and lashes out at phone industry

Zuckerberg challenged the priorities for next-generation 5G networks, which the industry is gearing up to deliver around 2020

Published: Updated:

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg on Monday tried to extend an olive branch to mobile phone companies, on which the popular social network company increasingly relies, but which are also among his biggest critics.

Speaking for the third straight year to an annual gathering of telecoms executives at the Mobile World Congress here, Zuckerberg sought to show his company could be a valuable, if truculent, ally to the wireless industry.

He described a new project Facebook is working on with major telecom players, including Nokia, Deutsche Telekom, SK Telecom and Intel to help rapidly build far faster mobile networks at lower costs.

But while listing the various ways Facebook was prepared to help network operators contend with spiraling consumer appetites for data, he also criticized and made more demands on the industry.

Zuckerberg challenged the priorities for next-generation 5G networks, which the industry is gearing up to deliver around 2020. He called them “faster connections for rich people” and said the companies should make more effort to “finish the job of making sure that everyone in the world gets Internet access.”

More than 4 billion people have no access to the Internet, he noted.

Telecom operators complain that companies like Facebook and Google that offer data-heavy mobile services are effectively free-loading on the big investments they must make to keep fixed-line and mobile networks from becoming overloaded.

“Facebook has always had a love-hate relationship with carriers,” Forrester Research analyst Thomas Husson said after Zuckerberg's comments. Further complicating his relationships with the telecom industry, Zuckerberg said video would be the next big driver for Facebook growth, putting more pressure on existing networks. Its users watch more than 100 million hours of video daily.