Ground Control to Facebook: Beam down the Internet to Earth

Published July 23rd, 2018 - 11:11 GMT
The satellite, called Athena, is slated to blast into orbit in 2019, according to e-mails obtained from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Wired. (Shutterstock)
The satellite, called Athena, is slated to blast into orbit in 2019, according to e-mails obtained from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Wired. (Shutterstock)

Facebook is taking the Internet-for-all fight to Google out of this world - literally.

The social media giant is working on a satellite that would beam down Internet connectivity to Earth, according to multiple media reports and confirmed to tech site Wired.

The satellite, called Athena, is slated to blast into orbit in 2019, according to e-mails obtained from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Wired.

According to Facebook's application filed with the FCC under the name PointView Tech, the device aims to "efficiently provide broadband access to unserved and underserved areas throughout the world".

The filing comes a week after Facebook announced that it was shutting down its drone initiative under its Aquila project, which was also designed to provide Internet access. The drones were supposed to be powered by solar energy and fly at high altitudes.

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On Thursday, Google parent Alphabet's Loon unit, which is designing balloons to deliver Internet to the planet's hard-to-reach areas, announced that it has signed its first commercial deal in Kenya. It said it will be working with Telkom Kenya to deliver 4G/LTE access to the African nation by 2019.

Facebook has, in the past, already cooperated with some companies to beam Internet from high above, although the results were not as they wanted it to be.

Now, with this confirmation, Mark Zuckerberg will be going head-to-head with SpaceX of Elon Musk - who he had a beef with - and Softbank-backed OneWeb, both of which are working on similar developments. SpaceX already got a headstart, launching the first two of its Starlink satellites, which it hopes to number in the thousands in the future.

By Alvin R. Cabral


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