What are the effects for telecoms after Facebook goes ‘home’?

Facebook has this week launched ‘Home’, software running on Android which turns a user’s phone lock screen into a news feed and a user interface for the social giant. But how does this align with other Facebook strategy, and what are the wider implications for the telecoms industry?

The new Facebook skin for Android launched yesterday, called Home, is arguably the most ambitious mobile play from the social giant so far.

Home is a combination of Facebook apps and ‘takes over’ the Android screen, running on Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean, with no plans as yet to take it to other operating systems or previous Android iterations.

It’s something of a spanner in the works, and could have a ripple effect for both operators and OTT players, industry experts warn.

“For carriers, the risk is that this puts Facebook’s communication services front and centre on the device and makes them easier to use and more integrated with the core experience on the device, which should make them easier to use than when they’re buried in an app, and should accelerate the shift from carrier services to over the top services,” noted Jan Dawson, Ovum chief telecoms analysts.

Dawson predicted: “It should be a big boost to Facebook Messenger and the associated voice and video services.”

It’s an interesting proposition – with Facebook taking over your Android phone, will traditional voice and text slow down as a result? Yet for operators, it may well be a challenge, but one they could overcome.

“Mobile voice services are changing rapidly,” explained Mark Windle, head of marketing at OpenCloud. “There has never been so much competition for voice as there is today.

“However, operators have a unique advantage, by being able to provide interoperability for both VoIP and VoLTE applications.

“Operators have the experience of connecting consumers to different networks and geographies, and can apply this experience to their applications.”

Windle concluded: “Differentiation for operators is key to keeping their market edge in a highly competitive landscape.”

Facebook’s flirtation with mobile – the story so far

For anyone who’s even vaguely been following Facebook for the past 12 months or so, the launch of Facebook Home may not be a huge surprise.

Facebook’s continued push towards mobile has been evident for quite some time. Pick your quote from CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who told TechCrunch Disrupt in September that “the bigger question that will define how we’ve done is how we do with mobile,” and then said to investors at the beginning of 2013: “The next thing we’re going to do is get really good at building new mobile first experiences.”

The company’s decisions through 2012, acquiring the likes of browsing app tool Spool and, of course, Instagram, accelerated this vision; Leadbolt CEO Dale Carr wrote for DeveloperTech this time last year that Facebook was “desperately trying to find its feet in the mobile market” and speculating that the Instagram/Facebook partnership could spell “the beginning of the end for the web”.

Plenty of column inches were also dedicated to the trials and tribulations of Facebook’s app; Zuckerberg’s quote on HTML5 that it was the “biggest strategic mistake we’d made” made writers worldwide squeal at the easiest headline they’d write all year.

Anyone who expected to see a Facebook phone, in the conventional sense, would leave the Menlo Park launch disappointed. Rumours of a Facebook smartphone have been in the ether since 2011, with Zuckerberg continually swatting them aside claiming it was the wrong strategy.

Home, therefore, could be seen as the best of both worlds; Facebook’s got control of your Droid in the lock screen, but without the trouble of building the hardware required for the fabled Facebook phone.

Dawson therefore calls this a “lower risk” play.

“If it does turn out to be successful, Facebook can build on the model further and increase the value provided in the application over time,” Dawson explained.

“The biggest challenge will be that it can’t replicate this experience on iOS, Windows Phone or BlackBerry.”

What’s your view on Facebook Home, and the effect it may have on traditional operator revenues and OTT players?

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