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What Zuckerberg Faces at Mobile Conference

When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addresses Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress at its opening day on Monday, he’s likely to face a tough crowd. Just a few weeks ago India’s regulator rejected Facebook’s Free Basics app, a development foreshadowed by discussions at last year’s MWC. This year Mr. Zuckerberg will be making a fresh attempt to “win friends and influence people,” as one conference organizer put it.

He’s also going up against businesses pitching advertising-based models aimed at closing the mobile connectivity gap in developing nations, said several people who plan to attend.

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Ahead of MWC, Qualcomm announced its its X16 modem, which uses unlicensed spectrum to sit beside Wi-Fi and deliver a fast connection of 1 gigabit per second. Companies like Qualcomm have said they have no interest in interfering with Wi-Fi connection, in part because their products rely on it too, but there is increasing pushback from Internet companies that have joined together in the “Wi-Fi Alliance.” In the U.S., Federal Communications Commission has said it will stay out of the debate for now, leaving it up for businesses to figure out ways to cooperate.

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Last year’s conference “demonstrated these regions won’t just be accepting” of “something thrown at them.”