Facebook's Plea to Telecom Companies: Let's Work on 5G Together

City Workers Return To Work Following The Festive Break
Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
  • Company needs faster networks as customers use more video
  • Mark Zuckerberg will make pitch at Mobile World Congress

Facebook Inc. needs mobile phone data networks to work better and faster. So they’re asking telecommunications companies to partner with them and share designs, in an initiative that could accelerate the spread of 5G connectivity.

Facebook made the same pitch with data-center storage and networking equipment through its Open Compute project, ultimately allowing the company and its partners to save billions in infrastructure costs. The company’s focus is moving to telecommunications as it builds products for live-streaming video and virtual reality, which require fast, high-bandwidth connections.


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Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg will make the plea to telecom companies at the Mobile World Congress, a gathering this week of industry leaders in Barcelona, Spain. Facebook is trying to get the equipment industry and carriers to share designs and technology that will speed up the adoption of faster networks. By doing so, the company is aiming to repeat its success in lowering the costs of equipment such as servers and storage devices.

“By putting together flexible building blocks, we will be able to build much more efficient networks in the future,” said Jason Taylor, vice president for infrastructure at Facebook. “No one company can do it alone.”

Early Support

Facebook already has some support. Intel Corp. and Nokia Oyj will work with Facebook on the initial designs, while Deutsche Telekom AG and SK Telecom Co. will use the first technology that comes out of the project, Facebook said. One focus is making sure that modern networks can be easily updated to fit growing needs, using data-center technology, Taylor said.

In the U.S., to help stimulate development, the two largest wireless carriers Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. have scheduled the first 5G field tests for sometime this year. The first agreement on industry standards is still years away and the introduction of the first 5G service of any type isn’t expected until 2020.

“We see 5G development starting in a lot of countries right now, particularly Japan, Korea and the U.S.,” said Hassan Ahmed, CEO of Acton, Massachusetts-based Affirmed Networks Inc., a supplier of equipment and software for mobile network operators. Carriers have already started to work together on getting to 5G networks, which can be five to 10 times faster than the current 4G networks, Ahmed said.


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Facebook is trying to influence an industry where best practices are already established. Currently, carriers pay large sums of money to experienced providers, and find it difficult to spend on upgrades until the last batch of equipment is paid off. It’s been difficult for new equipment providers to come in and create competition that lowers prices.

“Scaling traditional telecom infrastructure to meet this global data challenge is not moving as fast as people need,” Jay Parikh, Facebook’s head of engineering, said in a blog post. “Driving a faster pace of innovation in telecom infrastructure is necessary to meet these new technology challenges and to unlock new opportunities for everyone in the ecosystem.”

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