MWC: Mark Zuckerberg talks free Internet, VR and the killer app for 5G networks

During his keynote chat at Mobile World Congress, Facebook's chief executive discussed a bevy of topics ranging from his newborn daughter to his ​ambitious plans for virtual reality.
Written by Natalie Gagliordi, Contributor

During his keynote chat at Mobile World Congress on Monday, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg talked on a bevy of topics ranging from his newborn daughter to his ambitious plans for virtual reality.

But more than anything else, Zuckerberg wanted to discuss wireless connectivity and how he plans to continue rolling out programs aimed at delivering affordable Internet access to emerging markets.

It's a familiar plight for Zuckerberg, who's Internet.org initiative has sought to bring Internet access to the estimated 4 billion people worldwide who still don't have it. To that end, Zuckerberg highlighted the foundation of the Telecom Infra Project.

Similar to the function of the Open Compute Project, the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) will aim to open source Facebook's wireless technologies -- ranging from new wireless radios to new optical fiber equipment -- so that any wireless carrier may use them.

The hope is that this project will lead to the creation of better wireless networks that can keep up with all the bandwidth-sucking media being consumed on smartphones. But beyond building faster networks, Zuckerberg wants to see Telecom Infra bring wider access to people without Internet.

Noting a sore spot in Facebook's Internet philanthropy, Zuckerberg admitted his disappointment with how the company's Free Basics initiative came under intense criticism in India and was ultimately shut down.

"Facebook's mission is to connect everyone to the world," Zuckerberg said. "What we've learned here (with Free Basics) is that every country is different, and that the models that have worked in one country may not work in another."

Zuckerberg said he hopes to roll out the Telecom Infra Project to India as part of a continued effort to lower infrastructure costs.

Turning to virtual reality, Zuckerberg became a bit nostalgic.

"This is something I've been interested in for a long time," he said, recalling middle school days when he would scribble code in his notebook.

Zuckerberg's VR news landed on Sunday when he made a surprise cameo at Samsung's press event to announce the formation of a new social VR team. The newly minted group will work with both Oculus and other teams at Facebook to explore how VR and social interaction can come together.

"Pretty soon, we're going to live in a world where everyone has the power to share and experience whole scenes, as if we're there in person," Zuckerberg said Sunday.

According to the Facebook CEO, more than one million hours of video have already been viewed in Samsung's Gear VR headset.

Looking big picture, Zuckerberg said 5G networks will be critical to increasing the quality of the VR experience, noting how users will probably need 4K displays for each eye.

"In order to do that, I think this (VR) will be one of the killer apps of 5G networks," he said.

Widening his view even further, Zuckerberg said he expects 2016 will mark a pivotal shift in how people consume content in the social world.

"I think we are going to be a world where vast majority of content consumed online will be video," he said. "Video brings more raw and intimate moments that let you be you."

More: AR and VR: The future of work and play? | Research: 67 percent considering adoption of augmented reality in the enterprise | Executive's guide to the business value of VR and AR (free ebook) | Ten industries using augmented reality and virtual reality | Five ways augmented reality will transform your business | Five ways your company can get business value out of virtual reality

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