Mark Zuckerberg yesterday unveiled the all-new Facebook’s “Connectivity Lab” to work on the internet.org’s project to bring internet connectivity to the world’s 5 billion people who currently lack it. Internet.org, a partnership between Facebook and telecom industry giants such as Nokia,Qualcomm and telecom carriers, plans to use solar-powered drones and spacecraft to beam internet to the developing world.
“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,” said Mark Zuckerberg yesterday.
The Connectivity Lab will be powered by a team of world leading experts in aerospace and communications technology, including from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and five key members from Ascenta, a small UK-based company which makes the world’s longest flying solar-powered unmanned aircraft.
Internet.org project will use different vehicles to deliver Internet to different types of locals. In suburban areas with high population densities, it will use “solar-powered high altitude, long endurance aircraft” that can stay in the air for month. The aircraft will fly at 20 km altitude and will broadcast reliable internet from significant lower distances than satellites for a stronger connection. Less populated areas will be served by low-Earth orbit and geosynchronous satellites.
“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,” said Zuckerberg.
Facebook’s Connectivity Lab could compete with Google’s Project Loon, which uses huge helium balloon vessels to beam Internet to the developing world. It is estimated only one third of the world’s 7 billion people have access to the internet and the other two thirds, mostly in developing nations have little or no access at all.
Zuckerberg says that Internet.org and Facebook Connectivity Lab will work on inventing new technologies to complete the mission.