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Facebook Eyes Drones, Planes and Satellites for Broadband
by Karl Bode 11:27AM Monday Mar 31 2014
Rumors recently bubbled up that Facebook was considering buying drone-maker Titan Aerospace, with an eye on using drones to deliver broadband services to developing countries. While that deal hasn't been finalized yet, Facebook's Internet.org initiative has announced the development of a "connectivity lab" that will focus on a number of possibilities for bringing broadband to nations that lack infrastructure (with an eye, of course, on potentially billions of new ad eyeballs).

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For suburban areas in limited geographical regions, Facebook says the company has been working on solar-powered high altitude, long endurance aircraft capable of staying aloft for months. For lower density areas, the company is eyeing low-Earth orbit and geosynchronous satellites to help beam internet access to the ground.

For all of these systems, Facebook's connectivity lab team is looking at Free-space optical communication (FS) as a way of using light to transmit data through space using invisible, infrared laser beams. "FSO is a promising technology that potentially allows us to dramatically boost the speed of internet connections provided by satellites and drones," insists Facebook.

Facebook's certainly not the first to enter this arena; telecom history is filled with companies with similar ideas, most of them failing to get off the ground or being more hype than substance (remember stratellites?). Google's also interested in this sector, having announced last year a broadband-by-hot-air-balloon project under the moniker Google Loon.

To help speed these ambitions along, Facebook says they've spent $20 million to acquire UK company Ascenta, which specializes in high-altitude long-range aircraft. Alongside Facebook's recent acquisition of virtual-reality company Occulus VR; Facebook boss Mark Zuckerburg has catergorized these moves as investments in the company's "distant future."

topics flat nest 

Iowa native
Springfield, MA
·Verizon Broadban..

2 recommendations

Facebook management should be fired

If I had access to enough capital to do a hostile takeover of Facebook, I'd perform the hostile takeover, fire it's management (including Zuckerburg) and bring the site back to its former glory of a user friendly simple social networking site.

Some of the stuff they've done lately has them alienating their users. It's not as user friendly as it once was and has become too complex and difficult to use. The privacy settings are confusing too. And I'd have respect for user privacy.

Maybe I'd restore the version of the site that they had in 2008 or 2009 and the TOS and privacy practices they had back then.

Taking the company publicly traded was not a good idea, Zuckerburg should have kept it a private company.
I've experienced ImOn (when they were McLeod USA), Mediacom, Comcast, and Time Warner and I currently have DirecTV. They are much better than broadcast TV.

I have not and will not cut the cord.

Lexington Park, MD

3 recommendations


broadband for developing countries....can they put America on that list?

Camas, WA

Re: broadband

That's exactly what I was thinking...we live 10 miles out and we've had to live with hughesnet satellite (which is not real broadband) for close to 9 years now, and according to Comcast the soonest they'll get out here is another 3-4 years, which is better than Frontier (our phone server) who won't even answer me.
ISP: Direcway, DW6000OS: XP mediaBrowser: Firefox


Cyberpunk nightmare?

Those who use Facebook already know they need to forget about privacy. But Facebook with drones and satellites sounds like a cyberpunk nightmare. It's highly ironical how Facebook recently came out with strong statements about NSA, when violating users' privacy is their own bread and water.

I Void Warranties

Billings, MT


..has been available for almost 2 decades.. and it SUCKS.


Re: Satellite

The question is, does it have to? Is it an inherent limitation of satellites, or just a poor implementation of the idea?

Snohomish, WA

1 edit

Re: Satellite

High latency is one reason geosynchronous Satellite does not work well for some common internet tasks, and is a function of the long distance (at least 45000 mile round trip) to the satellite and back. plus the ground network delays at each end (figure 2 round trips for each transaction, and it starts to add up) even at the speed of light it's a long ways and can't be shortened, that' just physics. add to that the multi billion dollar cost of each satellite with limited bandwidth and lifespan, makes the cost of heavy use prohibitive for most non commercial uses.
Some things satellite is very good at is broadcast/streaming media with availability to a high percentage of locations on earth. or secure commercial transactions worldwide (expensive per byte but independent of ground networks) great for money handling and password verification.

LEO helps with latency but shortens the lifespan of and requires MANY more satellites for coverage (88 for best coverage from 60º north to 60º south) meaning VERY expensive bandwidth.
stratallites and drones would require 10's of thousands for full coverage but might work for selective coverage with fairly minor latency penalties.

IP Support Tier III
Pittsburgh, PA


gosh, I sure feel bad for all those folks claiming sensitivity to radio waves, they must be wringing there hands in worry over all those low orbit transmitters that could be up there some day......



1 recommendation

I think it would be fitting if Facebook was to buy AOL

I think they'd be perfect for each other.