Facebook slows down Internet speeds with ‘2G Tuesdays’ (+video)

29 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Facebook slows down Internet speeds with ‘2G Tuesdays’ (+video).

For an hour every Tuesday, Facebook employees can choose to be reminded what it’s like to access the Web on a 2G wireless connection. As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is scheduled to have a townhall in New Delhi, Facebook is taking a step closer towards understanding how consumers in India experience the social network.

In Africa, Facebook has over 120 million active users, 57% of which access the platform using a feature phone with a 2G connection. “They’re going to see the places that we need to improve our product, but they’re also going to see the places where we have made a lot of progress,” said Tom Alison, Facebook’s engineering director. In the US the average download speed over 4G LTE is 10 megabits per second (Mbps), according a report from wireless research firm OpenSignal; and mobile users in South Korea and Singapore enjoy LTE download speeds of about 30 Mbps and nearly ubiquitous coverage. 2G coverage still exists in the US, but it was made obsolete long ago by newer technologies.

Through other initiatives, like Internet.Org, Facebook Lite—a mobile app designed for 2G connections—and the company’s recent announcement that it will beam internet by satellite in Africa starting next year, it is clear that Facebook is betting on the “next billion” internet users—many of which still use 2G technology. However, 2G is the most common way of getting online in countries such as Thailand, Ecuador, and India, where Facebook is trying to bring more people online for the first time. Facebook hopes that by letting its employees access the Internet the way millions of people around the world do – very slowly – they’ll be able to empathize with what those users experience. “On the lower end of 2G networks, it can take about two minutes to download a webpage,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We need to understand how people use Facebook in different internet connections in all parts of the world so we can build the best experience for them.” Facebook also hopes the experience will reveal ways the company can make its products more useful for users in emerging markets. By optimizing the platform for slower connections and helping to improve access to the internet, Facebook wants to continue grow its user base rapidly in countries like India and Nigeria with the view to generating more revenue in the long term. Earlier this year, the company rolled out Facebook Lite, a slimmed-down version of its app that does away with auto-loading videos, high-def photos, and textures in order to lower data usage for users with slow connections.

In the second quarter of this year, 96.4% of Facebook’s revenue (pdf, pg. 8) came from advertising, while 76%, or $2.6 billion, of that ad revenue was derived from mobile advertising. While Facebook is notching up billions of dollars in revenue in North America and Europe, its average revenue per user (ARPU) in the developing world lags behind, as Quartz has previously reported. While the company’s Internet.org project, also known as Free Basics, has attracted criticism from groups who say it violates “net neutrality” principles by prioritizing Facebook’s own services over those of rivals, Facebook has succeeded in bringing zippier Internet to users in 25 countries so far.

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