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Friday, March 27, 2015

Facebook's Mighty Drones and Satellites Will Soon Beam Down Internet Access

Consider yourself lucky. The fact that you're reading this post makes you one of the 2.7 Billion fortunate humans who have access to the internet. This also means that the rest of the remaining 5 billion or so earthlings are still offline. No Google. No Facebook. Sucks right?

Well, Facebook and friends want to change all that with is a Facebook-led initiative bringing together technology leaders, nonprofits and local communities to connect the two thirds of the world that don’t have internet access. partners include Qualcomm, Nokia, Samsung, Mediatek, Ericsson and Opera.

Facebook-led will be deploying huge drones to beam down internet
Image credit: Facebook

Internet Connection From The Sky

One of the biggest challenges for Mark Z and company is how to connect people living in wide expansive areas without any internet infrastructure. Among the solutions: unmanned aircraft or drones beaming down internet from the sky.

In a Facebook post last Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg is hoping that these drones can help connect 10% of the world's population in a quick and affordable manner.

A prototype of the drone has already successfully completed its first flight in the United Kingdom with the final design expected to the following:
  • Wingspan larger than a Boeing 737 jumbo jet
  • Propulsion / Power will come from solar cells on the wings
  • Can fly and stay at an altitude 60,000 feet for more than a month
  • Free space optical communication or FSO technology will be used to transmit signals
According to Mr. Zuckerberg, has also recruited key personnel from Ascenta, whose founders created early versions of Zephyr, which became the world’s longest flying solar-powered unmanned aircraft, to work on these drones.

Watch this short video from on these internet-beaming drones

Satellites And Other Connectivity Solutions

Drones are a part of the entire connectivity and access equation for Providing internet access to all parts of the planet requires different solutions and approaches depending on the local conditions. This means traditional connection using cell sites and existing telecom networks if the infrastructure is available. In some cases, satellites may be used if drones prove to be impractical in certain localities.

For countries with existing infrastructure yet affordability is a major hindrance to connectivity, has already rolled out its mobile app in the Philippines, Ghana, India, Colombia, Kenya and Tanzania in partnership with local telecom providers. 

The app allows users to access Facebook and other useful sites (health, education, employment, etc) at no charge.

Below is a diagram of Mark Zuckerberg's vision of the multiple connectivity solutions for global internet access.

Universal Connectivity Goal

Internet access is not just about getting connected to people and information. In the developing world, it's about social, economic and personal improvement in people's lives. Think of access to jobs, new markets for products and services, reliable information to promote better health and education.

Mr. Zuckerberg cited a study conducted consulting firm Deloitte which found that "expanding internet access could create another 140 million new jobs, lift 160 million people out of poverty, and reduce child mortality by hundreds of thousands of lives."

In short, a connected world is a more prosperous and happier world.

Recommended read for download: white paper "Connecting The World From The Sky" by Mark Zuckerberg

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