Announcing the Connectivity Lab at Facebook
Last year Facebook and other tech companies launched Internet.org, a global partnership to make the internet available to the two thirds of the world’s population that doesn’t have it. We believe connecting the world is one of the greatest challenges of our generation, and that everyone deserves access to the knowledge, tools and opportunities that come from being connected.
Today, Mark Zuckerberg announced a team at Facebook that has been working on new technologies to improve and extend internet access. Begun by the same engineering talent behind Facebook’s infrastructure team and the Open Compute Project, the Connectivity Lab team has been working on developing new platforms for connectivity on the ground, in the air and in orbit.
To make these platforms a reality we’ve recently added some of the world’s top experts on aerospace technology including the team from Ascenta, a UK-based company with a deep expertise in designing and building high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) aircraft. The five-member Ascenta team has combined more than 100 years of experience in the aerospace industry including leadership positions with QinetiQ, Boeing, Honeywell and the Harris Corporation. They have worked on noteworthy projects like the Breitling Orbiter and early versions of Zephyr, which became the world’s longest flying solar-powered unmanned aircraft.
Other recent additions to the team have come from organizations including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA’s Ames Research Center, and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory.
The team’s approach is based on the principle that different sized communities need different solutions and they are already working on new delivery platforms—including planes and satellites—to provide connectivity for communities with different population densities.
For suburban areas in limited geographical regions, we’ve been working on solar-powered high altitude, long endurance aircraft that can stay aloft for months, be quickly deployed and deliver reliable internet connections.
For lower density areas, low-Earth orbit and geosynchronous satellites can beam internet access to the ground.
For all of these systems, the team is looking at Free-space optical communication, or FSO, is 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.
More info on our approach can be found here.
Facebook is focused on solving hard engineering problems by building ambitious solutions to address them. We’re looking to people who share this passion and we’ve posted open positions for this team on the Facebook Careers page.
On Monday, at the GSMA’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg kicked off the event with a fireside chat with author and journalist David Kirkpatrick. Mark spoke about Internet.org and the importance of making internet access available to the two-thirds of the world not yet connected.