The social network is about to become an operating network as mobile providers are warned to beware.
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And operators wishing to make friends and engage in partnerships should also look out as Facebook looks set to change position from collaborator to competitor – shaping up as a fully fledged mobile operator, warns Telco researcher Ovum.
Despite this, operators are still underestimating Mark Zuckerberg’s company’s mobile ambitions and are in danger of viewing it as a non-rival, researchers believe.
“Facebook is encroaching directly on mobile operator territory and should not be underestimated,” says Eden Zoller, author of the report and Ovum principal analyst.
And the network, which has almost 600 million users worldwide, has now morphed into its own platform for communications and content, with over 200 million using the service via mobiles.
“It is much more than a social network and is better viewed as an increasingly rich platform for communications and content.”
In addition, it already dominates apps across all Smartphone OS including Android and Apple’s iOS and only a matter of time before it launches a wholesale mobile service, Ovum say.
“Facebook wants to integrate with everything and be the main way that people consume and share information, anywhere and on any device.”
However, to date, direct moves towards expanding Facebook Mobile, launched back in 2006 into a fully fledged operating service, appear to have been relatively limited.
However, the researchers believe it’s only a matter of time and cite several moves by the company first set up by Harvard students, which is now valued at $50 billion, that has placed it in direct competition with mobile operators including its voice integration deal with Skype and its email service as well as the newly released mobile based check in service.
Facebook Mobile is the next natural step, warns Ovum, although this has been denied repeatedly by the social network.
Rumours of a Facebook phone already did the rounds late last year with a spokesman confirming they were busy at work on devices with third parties, confirming “deeper integration of some mobile manufacturers” but claiming his company “does not set up the phone.”
” The bottom line is that when we work in close integration, people want to call it “Facebook phone” because it’s such an attractive SoundBite, but building phones is just not what we do, what we do, ” he added.
Many phone makers have already climbed aboard the Facebook bandwagon, with the likes of HTC developing phones like the Salsa and ChaCha aimed specifically at its users, which were bandied to audiences of the Mobile World Congress.
“There is intense ongoing speculation that Facebook will come out with its own phone, which in some respects would be the final piece of the puzzle,” says Ovum.
“While there are good reasons why operators should wish to partner with Facebook, they should be more alert to the fact that it is shaping up to be a strong competitor.”