From the very beginning, Facebook has been all about connecting every individual on the face of the Earth to the internet — or more specifically their platform. There is no doubt the social media giant has been working to bring connectivity to far-reaching, and rural areas to connect the over 4.1 billion who still aren’t connected to the web. But, it seems the company hasn’t forgotten about the urban populace, which already houses a majority of its users.
Under its Telecom Infra Project, Facebook had unveiled two prominent technologies — wireless antenna systems called Terragraph and Project ARIES to improve data transmission. These technologies were unveiled at previous year’s F8 developer conference, but Facebook has today shared an update on how they’re expanding the scope of wireless connectivity in urban areas using its miniature Terragraph antennas.
With Terragraph, Facebook is doing something exceptionally smart and affordable. Instead of laying more optic fiber to provide the urban populace with high-speed internet connectivity (which Google Fiber has repeatedly failed at), the social networking behemoth has decided to distribute the existing fiber network via its custom-designed, multi-node wireless system. This eliminated the massive costs involved in laying more cable across the cities, you just have to hang antennas on a pole to expand range and connectivity.
But, the process isn’t as easy as it sounds. Facebook is actually introducing new technologies into the whole mix to make it easier for them to determine where antennas should be placed in the city. It has worked in collaboration with the city of San Jose to deploy the antennas via a first-of-its-kind at-scale project that tests their systems capabilities in the downtown corridor. Now comes the biggest part,
Now comes the biggest and best part, Facebook is employing its cutting-edge technologies, such as computer vision in this particular case, to run tests on images of the San Jose city. It analyses the map, including both the infrastructure and optic fiber layout, to now understand two important things – where they can potentially mount a millimeter-wave (MMW) radio — which have achieved a major milestone by achieving data rates of up to 80 Gbps — and what are the lines of sight.
The social media giant is employing the 60GHz wireless channel to send and receive data packets over its Terragraph antenna system. The said frequency has its challenges and requires a clear line of sight to main a strong signal and the connectivity disappears with just a minimal obstruction. Facebook is solving this by building proprietary software which routes the signal around obstructions in a split second. The whole package is also leveraging the cloud for intensive data processing to further reduce connectivity costs.
The company had been testing the wireless antenna system for the past year and believes the technology is now ready to contribute to the wider ecosystem. This can come really handy in developing countries, where the internet connections are mostly sluggish, as well spotty throughout the city. But, we would also be required to lay down at least the bare minimum high-speed fiber optic cable required to build the basic wired network.