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Zuckerberg fends off telecom operators with praise

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a big effort to appease telecom operators when he spoke at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Monday.

Zuckerberg emphasized that it is the telecom companies working to connect the world, not Facebook.

"We are different from operators, we are trying to help people connect with other people," Zuckerberg said. "It's really important to not lose sight of the fact that the ones that are driving this are the operators."

Zuckerberg has emphasized that his company's primary goal is to connect billions more people to the Internet all around the world.

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However, the telecom companies that build the infrastructure for the Internet are still skeptical. Some telecom operators argue that while companies like Facebook and Google benefit from mass connectivity, the operators that invest in building the networks get left behind because tech companies build apps like WhatsApp that help people communicate for free.

Facebook's creator Mark Zuckerberg speaks on the opening day of the 2015 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona on March 2, 2015.
Lluis Gene | AFP | Getty Images
Facebook's creator Mark Zuckerberg speaks on the opening day of the 2015 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona on March 2, 2015.

Zuckerberg, though, defended apps that enable free communication because they ultimately drive data usage overall, which translates to more money for operators.

"These apps drive data usage. People want to use these different services, so I think people are going to pay, but I think it is what specific things do you charge for? I think over time it will be data and other services," Zuckerberg said.

The tech giants also benefit because increased connectivity helps them cash in on increased ad revenue.

Facebook has continued to see solid growth in its ad business.

Last month, Facebook announced that it now had two million active advertisers. The company said making ad products easier to use helped contribute to this growth.

Despite some concerns, some operators say that partnering with Facebook has helped them.

Internet.org, which is Facebook's service that gives away some free apps to people in areas with low Internet access, is one way operators are partnering with the social giant company.

During the second half of the discussion, several executives from telecom companies joined Zuckerberg on the panel. Mario Zanotti, who is a senior executive vice president of the Latin American business for the telecom operator Millicom said that Internet.org is going well in Columbia and showing "Very impressive numbers."