Facebook isn’t stopping at drones that beam Internet. It’s next unconventional method of delivering Internet access to the underserved comes in the form of Terragraph antennas that can distribute access in densely populated areas, and its Aries array of antennas for more rural areas.
According to Facebook, the Aries array could end up being what 5G connectivity looks like one day. The Terragraph antennas, however, are farther along in development and will likely appear in the real world first.
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“We’re currently testing Terragraph at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park and preparing a broader trial with the city of San Jose in California,” said Facebook product manager Neeraj Choubey and engineer Ali Panah in a blog post. “We selected the latter for its mix of building types and neighborhoods, its proximity to Menlo Park, and the city’s commitment to demonstrating new technologies through the mayor’s Smart City Vision.”
When it comes to Aries, Facebook says its planning to open up the system’s plans to developers and academics so they can work on the existing algorithms or develop entirely new ones.
Perhaps most interesting is the fact that these systems could beam Internet for miles around. A recent study conducted by Facebook shows that almost 97 percent of the global population lives within 40 kilometers (around 25 miles) of a major city. As such, the company wants to develop technology that can beam Internet to some of these rural areas from city centers.
The initiatives are just the next step in Facebook’s plan to bring Internet access to as many people as possible. The social media network currently has a cool 1.55 billion monthly active users, but it aims to extend that reach to 5 billion by 2030 — a lofty goal. Improving Internet access will help the company reach this goal.
Of course, it’s not all about bringing the Internet to as many people as possible — Facebook will also benefit from it. The more users that are on its network, the more people it can advertise to. Facebook also isn’t the only company working to improve Internet connectivity around the world — Google is working on projects of its own, specifically Project Loon, which uses weather balloons to beam Internet access to those around it.