Facebook Inc Plan To Connect The World May Not Apply To India

26 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Facebook Inc Plan To Connect The World May Not Apply To India.

MUMBAI: If Mark Zuckerberg hopes to deliver on his vision of bringing the Internet to the 4 billion people who lack it, the Facebook chief will first need to make his plan more appealing to salesmen like Shoaib Khan.NARENDRA NAGAR, India — On a rooftop at the Shri Kunjapuri temple, located a mile high in the foothills of the Himalayas, a metal tower with five microwave relay dishes pokes a bit further into the sky.Facebook.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) could yet feel resistance in its bid to offer universal Internet access, as Internet.org struggles to gain traction in India — a country where over a billion people are devoid of basic Internet services for health, education and communication. Khan’s perfume and cellphone shop in one of this city’s many slums recently displayed a large blue banner advertising Zuckerberg’s project, called Internet.org, in the back.

The social network giant claims to have already connected six million people to the Internet worldwide, since the release of “Free Basics” in 25 countries including Indonesia and Panama. Another sign for the free package of Internet services — offered in India through the cellphone carrier Reliance Communications — was posted prominently in front. But when the reporter explained him about the Zuckerberg’s project for offering free internet services in India, he immediately dismissed it and said that seeing the free internet services under the Reliance connection in this slum area is certainly a tough task for him so he really is not interested to sell any such plans to his customers. “This is a program that is working to bring people online, and working incredibly well,” Chris Daniels, the Facebook executive who leads Internet.org, “Connectivity is something that improves people’s lives. The dishes relay signals to and from a base station in the valley below, other mountain towers and, ultimately, Internet access points in about 40 villages. The Digital India Initiative began with a view to transform the country digitally and reel-in big investments in the tech sector, but efforts so far have failed to gather active participation and widespread adoption.

It’s an enabler for people to be able to help themselves find jobs, help themselves improve their health situation, improve their education for themselves and their children.” In April, Prasad told the Parliament that he would soon call a meeting of all service providers to look into the problem of frequent call drops being faced by customers. Although the wireless carrier offered the service in seven states, consumers are wary of the spotty connections associated with the network, relative to market leaders, Airtel and Vodafone. This shrinking number of subscribers is surely not doing any favors to Facebook, as their internet service can only be accessed by those with a Reliance subscription.

The skepticism of phone sellers like Khan and the weaknesses of Facebook’s Indian partner are just two of the problems that have bedeviled Zuckerberg’s project so far. For 10 rupees, or about 15 cents, customers can buy one day’s access to 100 megabytes of data; $3 will buy 20 gigabytes of data, which can be used over the course of a month. Since a majority of cellphone users in India haven’t even heard of Freenet (Reliance’s Internet.org), it would be convenient to put the failing down to the carriers’ poor customer service and sluggish data network. Market experts also think that a lack of awareness could be blamed for the fact that Facebook’s internet platform hasn’t really taken off in India. Zuckerberg and Facebook however faced an almost immediate backlash, with critics saying that the initiative’s objectives were against the very fabric of net neutrality.

Internet.org’s free services — which include news articles, health and job information, and a text-only version of Facebook — are deliberately stripped down to minimize data usage and the cost to the phone company. In India, educating consumers on what network connection to adopt is largely left in the hands of card sellers, who are usually incentivized by other carriers to promote their network. In a Facebook post in July last year, Zuckerberg said, “A year ago, I announced Internet.org, our effort to bring affordable internet access to everyone in the world. Recently, a steady stream of young men stopped by the clothing shop that is the sole vendor of Express Wi-Fi in the village to buy a bit of data and chat with the proprietor, Maken Singh Aswal. This adoption by word-of-mouth still holds significance in India, considering the fact customers have no barriers in switching their wireless networks.

For instance, the operator may sell a YouTube pack with a speed of 2Mbps for the service, whereas for rest of the services, speed might be limited to 512Kbps or so. As recently reported in the New York Times, Khan has been displaying a banner ad for Internet.org in his shop, while having absolutely no clue what the platform was about. But many Indians want more and complain that, contrary to its altruistic claims, the project is simply a way to get them onto Facebook and sign up for paid plans from Reliance. Gurdeep Singh, Chief Executive of Reliance, claimed the battle against digital illiteracy is a slow process, but did admit the company needed to do more to raise awareness of Freenet and convince retailers to promote it.

Internet activists have also attacked Facebook for cherry-picking partners to include in its walled garden rather than simply offering a small amount of free access to the whole Internet. We’re starting to see this vision become a reality, and we’ve already helped 3 million people access the internet who had no access before.” In a country like India though, the problem is slightly different.

The Express Wi-Fi plan supplemented his Airtel data plan, but he said it had a major drawback. “It only works on one side of the house,” he said, gesturing around the main room of his family’s small home. Other conventional forms of marketing have been slow to catch on too, with large billboards often ignored due to language concerns and imperfect information.

In order to garner support from the masses, Facebook started a poll on the homepage, where it asked the question – Do you want India to have free basic Internet services? But he remains passionate about his crusade. “Internet access needs to be treated as an important enabler of human rights and human potential,” he told the United Nations last month. Although Facebook began by working with mobile operators, issues such as network access, coverage quality and call drop are impediments that pose a hurdle towards the noble objective. That was a common complaint about Express Wi-Fi, which has a single access point in this town of 5,000 people and focuses the signal on the main business strip.

The idea behind this service is to offer access to a handful of services for free, just to let users get used to Internet and learn about its advantages. Many users are against the service because they feel the neutral internet is being affected by the limited selection of websites provided in the package. Facebook is investing heavily in other parts of the project, including experiments to deliver cheap Wi-Fi to remote villages and to beam Internet service from high-flying drones.

Perhaps the top most agenda for Zuckerberg during his India visit this week ought to be improving connectivity in India, before he could accomplish his goal of bring billions more online, and eventually on Facebook. According to Mark Zuckerberg, he definitely supports net neutrality, as it fights and prevents discrimination. “Net neutrality means we can use the services we want, and innovators can build the services we need. Connecting everyone is about preventing discrimination too.” As of September this year, Facebook has decided to rename the project and change Internet.org into Free Basics.

Across India, Facebook already has about 130 million users — only the United States has more users — and wider use will eventually translate to more advertising revenue for the company. During a tour of Internet.org outposts in the Garhwal region, Munish Seth, who heads Facebook’s connectivity efforts in India, downplayed the commercial implications. “My mission is to connect people,” Mr. The social media giant said that not having a program like ‘Free Basics’ more people would remain offline and without realizing the real benefits of Internet. But in the neighborhood’s narrow alleys, where rivulets of raw sewage competed with sandaled feet, there was little evidence that anyone had noticed Internet.org. Seth said. “We hope they will connect to Facebook, but that’s not the primary mission.” Facebook has no desire to enter directly into the Internet service business.

The company’s inability to offer equal access to content is seen as an attempt to self-appoint it as the regulator of the Internet for a new generation of users. Defending Facebook’s initiative, Zuckerberg said that Internet.org and Net Neutrality can co-exist. “For people who are not on the Internet though, having some connectivity and some ability to share is always much better than having no ability to connect and share at all. While on paper this platform was open to all developers, a quick look at the terms and conditions revealed how Facebook still reserved the right to accept or reject the apps that are being submitted for Free Basics. Zuckerberg is still focused on winning over the Indian public, and will arrive in New Delhi later this week to address some of Facebook’s 130 million Indian users.

The companies have tested various pricing models, including offering some service for free, but have concluded that charging a consistent, low price is the best approach. Facebook may be facing setbacks in establishing its own Internet platform, but the company has pledged to offer free services on its universally accessible domain to whichever firm is interested.

Phone-card vendors are key advisers, educating people about all their options. “New customers don’t come looking for Freenet,” said Khan, who is no relation to Shoaib Khan. Even if Reliance’s network were good, he said, the package excludes WhatsApp, a popular messaging app owned by Facebook, and users must pay to see the photos in their Facebook feeds. “If you have to pay for data, what’s the point of calling it free?” he said. A better idea would be to subsidize Internet access till a certain limit and then let users decide whether they would like to pay more for using it further. Khan noted that another carrier had recently awarded him his choice of a Hero motorcycle or 45,000 rupees — nearly $700 — for signing up 1,000 customers. Moreover, the government needs to spread mobile connectivity to all its rural villages and small towns, as well as educate its populace with global information to maximize their human potential.

As e-commerce giant, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd (NYSE:BABA) prepares to report the second quarter performance for fiscal year 2015 (2QFY15), experts view has surfaced to assist investors, going into earnings tomorrow. So it’s a model that has proved to work in the past and we’re simply applying that to Internet connectivity.” A version of this article appears in print on 10/26/2015, on page B4 of the NewYork edition with the headline: On Himalayan Hillsides, Wi-Fi Comes to Hamlets . China woes have had an adverse impact on Alibaba’s credibility, as investors worry that Alibaba’s lead in the e-commerce space could play to its disadvantage, as consumer spending slows down in the country. Building on the aforementioned notion, analysts at Cantor Fitzgerald specify: “We expect BABA’s 2Q:FY16 results, slated for 10/27, to come in line with Street expectations, which were recently reset lower following management’s intra-quarter update on business trends at an investor conference.” Macro concerns about China’s economy, the health of the Chinese consumer, and competitive concerns remain key issues, and growth in Tmall and Taobao will provide much needed answers to these questions. In a recent interview, however, the agency’s chairman, Ram Sewak Sharma, was skeptical of Internet.org. “Maybe they have wonderful objectives, but the way it is being implemented, that’s not really appropriate,” he said.

International wholesale is projected to increase 12% YoY to $218 million; international growth is anticipated to slow down 16% on a YoY basis from 40% in the last quarter. Modest growth is expected in “Others.” Projections of $230 million in revenues are reported under this segment, down from 82% derived in the first quarter. Risks of doing business in China, VIE ownership structure, corporate governance, transparency, and slowdown in China’s economy.” The sell side view on Bloomberg is substantially bullish on Alibaba stock.

In a report released on Friday, October 23, RBC Capital Markets reiterated an Outperform rating and raised the target price by $1 to $56 on Dow Company (NYSE:DOW) stock. Growth projects will come online, along with the Agriculture business’ potential sale, and the strong outlook of Plastics and downstream earnings, before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) are some of the company’s impetus. The multinational chemical company reported 82 cents earnings per share (EPS), which surpassed consensus and RBC Capital Market’s 69 cents and 70 cents estimates, respectively. The negatives comprise higher startup cost for the Sadara project, continued weak outlook of the Agricultural segment, adverse seasonal impacts, and lost EBITDA as a result of divestitures. The company will receive re-tax proceeds of approximately $1.5 billion for portions of MEGlobal, and will lower its ownership in EQUATE during next year.

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