Facebook is giving more details about its effort to connect remote parts of the world to the Internet — and it involves drones, lasers and satellites.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday that Facebook is hiring “key members of the team” from Ascenta, a U.K. company whose founders created early versions of the world’s longest-flying solar powered drone.
Zuckerberg also unveiled the Facebook Connectivity Lab.The operation will employ the Ascenta hires as well as hires from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and Ames Research Center.
At its Careers page, Facebook lists more than 80 job openings – including two at its huge data center in Western North Carolina.
Beam Me Internet
In a blog, Zuckerberg wrote:
“In our effort to connect the whole world with Internet.org, we’ve been working on ways to beam internet to people from the sky.
“Today, we’re sharing some details of the work Facebook’s Connectivity Lab is doing to build drones, satellites and lasers to deliver the internet to everyone.
“Our goal with Internet.org is to make affordable access to basic internet services available to every person in the world.
“We’ve made good progress so far. Over the past year, our work in the Philippines and Paraguay alone has doubled the number of people using mobile data with the operators we’ve partnered with, helping 3 million new people access the internet.
“We’re going to continue building these partnerships, but connecting the whole world will require inventing new technology too. That’s what our Connectivity Lab focuses on, and there’s a lot more exciting work to do here.
“Our team has many of the world’s leading experts in aerospace and communications technology, including from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and Ames Research Center. Today we are also bringing on key members of the team from Ascenta, a small UK-based company whose founders created early versions of Zephyr, which became the world’s longest flying solar-powered unmanned aircraft. They will join our team working on connectivity aircraft.”
The lab’s goal is to bolster Internet.org, the Facebook-led project that aims to connect the more than 70 percent of the world’s 7 billion people who are not yet online. (A YouTube video provides more details about the effort.)
The announcement comes days after Facebook announced a $2 billion deal to buy virtual reality startup Oculus.
Zuckerberg has said that access connectivity is not the main obstacle to getting the world online. He noted at the Mobile World Congress wireless show in Barcelona, Spain last month that more than 80 percent of the world’s population live in areas with 2G or 3G wireless access. More important, he said, is giving people a reason to connect: basic financial services, access to health care information and educational materials.
Facebook’s acquisition of a company called Onavo last fall also fits with Internet.org’s vision. Onavo develops data compression technology, which helps applications run more efficiently. This is especially important in developing countries, where people have access to much slower Internet speeds.
Google Inc., which is not a part of the Internet.org effort, launched a similar undertaking earlier this year with the goal of getting everyone on Earth online. Called Project Loon, the effort launched Internet-beaming antennas aloft on giant helium balloons.