Many factors pose challenges to the effective deployment of a good internet connection around the globe. They include the cost of laying premium internet framework – fiber optic cables, maneuvering tricky terrains and its inhomogeneous level of need in varied localities relative to the deployment cost. Consequently, harmonizing the medium of deploying internet may represent the most viable path towards achieving a financially-efficient implementation of a good internet globally.
Over the past few years, a host of companies have been working on launching “constellations” of smaller satellites into the low Earth orbit, between 160 and 2012 kilometers about the Earth, as a better way to connect the entire world’s population.
Facebook has confirmed plans to launch its own internet satellite called Athena, in early 2019, according to WIRED. Based on the information obtained from the Federal Communication Commission, the satellite device being designed by the social media giant will “efficiently provide broadband access to unserved and underserved areas throughout the world,” Facebook filed under the name PointView Tech LLC.
Facebook, SpaceX and OneWeb are Now on the Race
Softbank-funded OneWeb and Elon Musk’s SpaceX are among the companies still working on similar projects before Facebook’s filling. Last February, SpaceX deployed the first two of its Starlink satellites into the low Earth orbit. And the company hopes to launch other satellites (estimated to be thousands in number) for the project.
Internet.org division Connectivity Lab in 2016 launched an internet satellite using SpaceX rocket. The satellite was designed to provide internet in Africa, but the project failed. The satellite instrument was destroyed when the rocket blew during the deployment. However, the satellite was planned to be launched into a geosynchronous transfer orbit, which is a lot higher than the lower orbit Facebook is planning to deploy its Athena satellite.
“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 said in a statement as reported by WIRED.
Facebook is Actually Ambitious to Provide Internet Globally
While Facebook’s plan to launch a new internet satellite sounds ambitious, it’s not out of the tech giant’s character. Facebook has long demonstrated an interest in connecting billions of people without access to an affordable and quality internet around the world. For many years, the social media company has been working on solar-powered drone called Aquila, a laser-powered internet connectivity solution which it has killed last month.
Facebook Athena is still a single research project for now. However, some experts have expressed potential challenges Facebook satellite would face to achieve this goal. Lower orbit satellites would require a number of satellites to be effective compared to larger satellites flying at a higher distance above the Earth. That will attract more cost.
Teledesic funded by Bill Gates attempted launching satellite internets in the 1990s but left the project due to challenges. Globalstar and Iridium are also a few other companies that have crashed out from pursuing similar projects due to similar challenges.