Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered an olive branch to the world’s largest mobile carriers on Monday.
Zuckerberg said that even though Facebook offers free services through products like WhatsApp and Messenger that rival traditional SMS and voice-calling (the core business for many mobile carriers), Facebook isn’t a threat to business.
In fact, it’s the opposite, he says; Facebook is a boon to business.
“The business for operators … [is] increasingly shifting toward data and other things,” Zuckerberg said onstage at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. “These apps drive data usage, and that is the future of business. Facebook, we know, drives data usage.”
A big part of Zuckerberg’s focus over the past two years has been Internet.org, the company’s mission to provide free wireless Internet services (like Facebook) to people who otherwise lack Internet access. On Monday, Zuckerberg described this as an “on-ramp” to the Internet for these users, and that once they start using free services, they’ll eventually move to paid services, too.
Zuckerberg isn’t buying into the notion that offering free services might create tension between Facebook and service providers. A recent Wall Street Journal article found that tension does exist, and it makes sense: Why would you pay for something that Facebook can offer you for free?
Internet.org has launched in six countries so far, including India, the world’s second-most populous country. A handful of telecom providers joined Zuckerberg onstage Monday, and while none could say for certain that Facebook’s services are helping improve their respective bottom lines, at least one partner was optimistic.
Mario Zanotti, senior executive VP at Millicom International Cellular, said that the company has seen 50 percent growth in new data users in Colombia since Internet.org launched there in early January. It has also seen smartphone sales in Tanzania increase “10-fold” since last October.
When asked if other providers were having similar success, Zuckerberg simply responded, “Yeah.” He did, however, leave providers with a more direct pitch to cap off the conversation.
“We’re looking forward to working with all of you and helping you do what you do a bit better and making more money and connecting more people in the process,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.