Facebook building experimental internet satellite – report
MANILA, Philippines - With half of the world’s population said to still br offline, a number of companies such as SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, OneWeb, a global communications company, and Google have been declaring plans to provide internet access to remote areas.
The typical problem is that geographical obstacles in remote areas prohibit the installation of fiber optic cables, the current gold standard for internet connections. To circumvent the problem, these tech titans are visualizing non-terrestrial solutions either with low Earth-orbit satellites or with high-altitude balloons that essentially bypass nearly all geographical issues.
Facebook may soon be joining them with official confirmation that it’s working on its own internet-providing satellite called Athena.
According to the emails, Facebook is targeting a 2019 launch for its experimental satellite that will reportedly deliver faster data rates than SpaceX’s satellites. Facebook filed all this information with the FCC under a company named PointView Tech LLC.
“While we have nothing to share about specific projects at this time, we believe satellite technology will be an important enabler of the next generation of broadband infrastructure, making it possible to bring broadband connectivity to rural regions where internet connectivity is lacking or non-existent,” a Facebook spokesperson told Wired.
Space companies based in the United States are required to get permission from the FCC to launch, as noted by Spectrum, a magazine edited by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). It seems to be just a mere formality as construction for Athena seems to have begun in July 2016, even before all the paperwork.
Facebook has plenty of work ahead as lower orbit satellites need a large network of satellites numbering hundreds or even thousands for it to be effective, which increases cost.
“The challenge with satellite internet today is really affordability – being cost-competitive with cable or other fiber distribution,” says Kerri Cahoy, an MIT associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics. “The satellites are one thing that drives the cost – they’re pretty expensive to build.”
The cost of construction could also come at a great cost for the people who will be availing of the service, which will essentially defeat the purpose of providing internet to everyone.
It’s also not the first time the social media giant has ventured into internet-providing technologies, having pulled the plug on their Aquila internet drone project in June 2018. – Rappler.com