Facebook spearheads new coalition to bridge digital divide via mobile

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Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is teaming with Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia (NYSE:NOK), Opera Software, Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) and Samsung Electronics to launch internet.org, a coalition dedicated to extending online access to developing markets via mobile devices and services.

According to internet.org data, only 2.7 billion people--just over a third of the global population--currently enjoy Web access. The group seeks to bring the rest of the world online by collaborating on technological initiatives to make mobile connectivity more affordable by slashing the cost of delivering data services. Projects under discussion include the development of lower-cost, higher-quality smartphones, creating new data compression technologies, enhancing wireless networks to more efficiently handle data traffic and building new mobile app frameworks to reduce data consumption.

The six internet.org founder companies said each will leverage existing partnerships to advance the group's mission, adding that operators will play a pivotal role by leading initiatives that benefit the entire mobile ecosystem. No carrier partners were announced, however.

"The unfair economic reality is that those already on Facebook have way more money than the rest of the world combined, so it may not actually be profitable for us to serve the next few billion people for a very long time, if ever," Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg writes in a whitepaper accompanying internet.org's launch. "But we believe everyone deserves to be connected."

Internet.org builds on Facebook's existing efforts to expand social media access to emerging markets. Its Java-based Facebook for Every Phone app, launched in early 2011, targets feature phone owners in developing countries, delivering a pared-down user experience optimized for reduced data consumption. Last month Facebook for Every Phone eclipsed the 100 million active user benchmark, corresponding to roughly one out of every eight of Facebook mobile users worldwide.

For more:
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