Facebook buys Pryte to boost worldwide connectivity effort

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Facebook has acquired Finnish data plan firm Pryte as the social network continues in its bid to allow mobile users to access wireless Internet apps in less developed countries.

Pryte aims to allow users to get online via short-term passes, which would then enable access to mobile apps including Facebook. The service has not yet been publicly launched, but Facebook's spokeswoman Vanessa Chan has confirmed that the deal is expected to close later in the month.

Facebook has 1.28 billion users worldwide and has been interested in extending its reach to under-developed parts of the world for some time. This has seen them partner with wireless operators around the world in order to offer access to its social network for free in certain countries.

Reports suggest that the social media giant is interested in the team behind Pryte, which currently consists of 30 employees, with plans to bring at least some of them to Facebook.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has reiterated the company's commitment to offering online access to those in less developed countries by announcing that connecting the "next five billion people" is a top priority for them moving forwards.

This is part of the Internet.Org initiative that has been championed by the company's founder and CEO, which aims to bring connectivity to disadvantaged people and has been described as an "on ramp to the internet" for emerging markets.

"One thing I think it's easy to take for granted is that most people do not have access to the internet," Zuckerberg said at the Mobile World Congress keynote earlier in the year.

"It's 2.7 billion [with internet access] and it's growing slower than you'd imagine."

The model has already been trailed in countries such as the Philippines and Paraguay, with the number of people accessing the Internet in the former reportedly doubling. With Pryte involved, Facebook will be able to test the limits of this model even further, offering options to users in disadvantaged parts of the world for getting online.

Caroline Preece

Caroline has been writing about technology for more than a decade, switching between consumer smart home news and reviews and in-depth B2B industry coverage. In addition to her work for IT Pro and Cloud Pro, she has contributed to a number of titles including Expert Reviews, TechRadar, The Week and many more. She is currently the smart home editor across Future Publishing's homes titles.

You can get in touch with Caroline via email at caroline.preece@futurenet.com.