Facebook Now To Provide Space Laser Internet…
Facebook is famous for its social media platform that offers free accounts for online posting and dialog with the global community. However, that group is limited to people who have governmental permission to do so and with access to the internet.
Facebook claims that “more than 90 percent of the world’s population” are connected “to 2G networks.”
The remaining 10 percent includes many rural areas in the United States that have no infrastructure capable of providing an internet connection. There is no on-ramp to the information highway, leaving 4 billion prospective customers unserved.
Facebook has been exploring the possibilities of expanding their consumer base (and raise their flagging stock value) by creating a futuristic infrastructure that will use aerial lasers to beam an internet conduit into places too remote for a physical tower that transmits radio signals to user devices.
Here is Facebook’s vision:
“We are developing a range of new technologies — including high-altitude aircraft, satellites, free space optics, and terrestrial solutions — to help accelerate the process of bringing connectivity to the unserved and underserved.”
A ground-based internet system is quite costly: its infrastructure encompasses land rights, hardware and equipment, fiber, microwave, and a hefty power supply to run it all. Telephony providers are slow to build out into regions with few customers because it takes longer to recoup their expansion expense.
In addition, residents of remote areas tend to earn lower incomes than in more populated places. Many of them find that online access is too expensive to afford and won’t sign up as new customers after the onramp has been opened for business.
Last summer (2018), Facebook project engineers from German company Mynaric tested a system whereby lasers shot a high-speed internet connection from planes flying overhead.
The novel, next-generation system transmits its own laser beam upward to link up with equipment on a drone or a satellite. The lasers established a wireless link between the plane and a ground station located at a distance of 5.6 miles. The bidirectional optical link clocked in at 10 gigabits/second (Gbps).
Speaking for Mynaric, Paul Cornwall told IEEE:
“We proved that a link could be re-established near instantaneously without any discernible downside.”
However, IEEE also reported in January 2019 that Mynaric “would neither confirm nor deny that it was still working with Facebook.”
A different technology can yield an even faster transmission speed. Facebook blogged about their achievement: a speed of 40Gbps at the same time in each direction from a ground site to an airplane flying 4.3 miles away, using millimeter-wave technology rather than lasers.
Since 2014, Facebook has been developing cutting edge internet technologies such as Aquila, a proprietary high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft (think drone) designed by the tech giant’s aerospace team in Britain.
Facebook faced few competitors at the time they began realizing their high altitude platform station (HAPS) system. The project proposed “out of the box” thinking about how to overcome the technical and geographical limitations imposed by remote parts of the real world. The first step was to develop an airborne hardware platform:
“To increase our chances of success we took on every part of our aircraft’s design, development, and testing, work that was led by our team in Bridgwater, U.K.”
Facebook scientists also began testing millimeter-wave (MMW) technology in air-to-ground and point-to-point communication.
Although the Aquila drone could stay aloft above 60,000 feet for 90 days at a time, Facebook scrapped the project in June 2018. Yael Maguire, Facebook’s director of engineering, blogged:
“We’ve decided now is the right moment to focus on the next set of engineering and regulatory challenges for HAPS [high-altitude platform] connectivity. This means we will no longer design and build our own aircraft, and, as a result, we’ve closed our facility in Bridgewater.”
In January 2019, news broke that Facebook is building two new observatories on Mount Wilson in California.
Speculation is running high that these sky-facing structures will house the company’s – and the world’s – first laser communications system capable of connecting to satellites in orbit around the earth.
Facebook has made no formal announcement about its observatory project. The public only knows about it from building permits issued by the County of Los Angeles that identify a small company called PointView Tech as the construction contractor:
“PointView is a subsidiary of Facebook that IEEE Spectrum says is building a satellite called Athena. PointView has also petitioned the FCC to test if E-band radio signals could be used for broadband access in unserved and underserved areas.”
The permits indicate that two detached observatories are slated for construction on the mountain top. It is possible that they are an optical ground station for a laser satellite installation, as previously developed by Mynaric.
Communication services provided by lasers in space offer faster data speeds compared to radio transmitters and may prove unhackable.
The only real obstacle to high-altitude laser-driven online access is entirely natural: cloudy conditions can interrupt the data stream and lower transmission quality or create outages.
Perhaps Facebook could do something about those toxic, sky-darkening chemtrails?