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Zuckerberg likely to talk up Facebook's mobile ad network

Karen Bleier | AFP | Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is widely expected to reveal more details about plans for a mobile ad network at the company's F8 developer conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Such a service would let Facebook further monetize the data collected on its 1.28 billion monthly active users by enabling advertisers to provide highly targeted ads using that data on other mobile platforms, including apps and games.

Rivals Google and Twitter, are among the many other companies already offering competing services, but Facebook is particularly well-positioned because its users provide such a wealth of personal information. It's that treasure trove of data, such as gender, age and Likes, that could give Facebook the edge.

(News that Facebook would be launching the network was first reported by Re/code.)

"Facebook's advantage as an ad network is that it has increasingly detailed, accurate profiles on a vast number of Internet users," said Mark Mahaney, managing director and analyst at RBC Capital Markets.

Last week on the company's first-quarter earnings call, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg highlighted a mobile ad network as a key opportunity.

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"We think because we're people-based, we have an opportunity first to provide greater reach for marketers and developers who are working with Facebook across other platforms, but also improve the relevance of the ads people see both on and off Facebook."

But Sandberg cautioned that the service is still in the very "early testing phase," adding that Facebook does not expect it to make "meaningful contributions" this year.

"Even if successfully launched near term, it's hard to see how a mobile ad network would be material to Facebook's financials this year. But it could well be material in 2015 and beyond," added Mahaney.

The company already generates 59 percent of its revenue from mobile and earned $1.48 billion in mobile revenue in Q1.

Analysts will be watching Zuckerberg's keynote, likely standing room only, for a status update and more details on the highly anticipated service. But don't expect Zuckerberg to focus too heavily on the new product Wednesday.

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Teasing ahead to what he called, "the main event for our developer community," Zuckerberg said the focus will be helping developers learn how to build successful apps on the Facebook platform, telling analysts on the company's earnings call: "We do this because, even with all the experiences we're building, we understand that there will always be more social experiences that we can't build, so we want to keep serving developers better and to help them build, grow and monetize their apps."

Facebook has hand-selected 1,700 developers to attend out of a larger pool of applicants, with each paying $495 to hear from Zuckerberg and his team of engineers.

—By CNBC's Harriet Taylor.

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