Facebook renews its ambitions to connect the world

Facebook first revealed its plans to build a 37,000 km submarine cable, called 2Africa, in the spring of 2020, and announced Expansion last month. It is expected to be completed in 2023 or 2024. The new transatlantic cable project is supposed to provide 200 times more capacity than undersea cables laid in the early 2000s.

Its recent ads aren’t just targeting Africa or other emerging markets. The Bombyx robot can be deployed anywhere there are existing power structures, as it takes advantage of power lines already built; And Facebook says 30,000 Terragraph units have already been deployed in Anchorage, Alaska, and Perth, Australia, among other places.

Bombyx looks neat, as far as bots go. After a technician puts it on a power line, it crawls along the line, wraps itself around the cable as it goes, and yanks out the Kevlar-reinforced fiber (for strength and to withstand the heat of medium-voltage power lines). Because it requires a certain amount of balance for the bot to stay on the line, the Facebook team says it’s re-engineered the bot to be lighter, agile and more stable. It has reduced the robot’s load from 96 strands of optical fiber to 24, after determining that a single fiber can provide Internet access to up to 1,000 homes in a nearby area.

To be clear, Facebook hasn’t reinvented fiber optic cables; She came up with a scheme to run them above ground, using existing power infrastructure, rather than digging trenches to lay cables underground. And it has come up with a semi-autonomous way to do this, by building a robot that it claims will eventually be able to “pin over a kilometer of fiber and independently pass dozens of overlapping obstacles in an hour and a half.”

For Terragraph, Facebook’s Rabinovitsj and Maguire describe Terragraph as a system made up of several technologies. It is based on the 802.11ay standard developed by the WiFi Alliance. It is a technical reference design developed in partnership with Qualcomm. It is also a Wi-Fi system that uses nodes on existing street structures, such as lampposts and traffic lights. The result, they say, is multi-gigabit speeds commensurate with the speeds of fiber lines – but in this case, it’s transmitted over the air.

“This means that anyone can publish this without having to get a license from a regulator,” McGuire says. “And that makes it very affordable, which is one of its other innovations.”

Complaints of human rights activists

It’s not wise for Facebook to try to take advantage of existing infrastructure and reduce labor costs when it comes to building a fiber network. But the company’s previous forays into the telecommunications field have alarmed telecom operators and human rights activists. Some accused the company Building a two-tier Internet It can widen disparities in access.

In the interview, Rabinowitz, who leads Facebook Connectivity, insisted that Facebook is not an ISP and does not want to become one. He said the company is not looking to generate revenue from the project and is licensing the technology to others for free. However, he acknowledged that Facebook benefits from sharing more data around the world, and that anyone else with a digital property benefits as well.

Peter Misk, general counsel for the digital civil rights nonprofit Access Now — which in the past received funding from Facebook for the organization’s RightsCon conference — says that over the past four years, the rate at which fiber has essentially stopped providing wired internet access, which is “not ideal.” It’s not happening at the rates needed to bring the next billion people online anytime soon.” He says that people in less developed countries “still largely rely on mobile, but there’s still a lot you can’t do on mobile.”

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