Light Reading
If Facebook buys a drone maker it could be looking for a way to connect hard-to-network places around the globe.

Flyin' Facebook: Now Zuckerberg Eyes Drones?

Dan Jones
3/6/2014
50%
50%

Facebook's current acquisition plays could position the company as a major communications player for the next decade. The social networking giant, which has just acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion -- and could potentially pop for a carrier -- is now reportedly in talks to buy a satellite-cum-drone manufacturer. (See Facebook to Acquire WhatsApp for $16B and Could Tata Be Facebook's Next M&A Target?)

Facebook is said to be in talks to buy Titan Aerospace for $60 million, according to TechCrunch. Titan Aerospace makes massive near-orbit solar drones, also known as an "atmospheric satellite," that it says can fly for five years without landing.

Communications services -- from voice and data networks to global positioning services -- are a big part of what Titan Aerospace believes its drone platform offers. "Imagine reaching vast new markets," it boasts on its website.

Clearly, this is an entirely different kettle of drone than the tiny futuristic delivery vehicles that Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) was taunting the media and blogosphere with in December through its "Prime Air" project. It is much more akin to Google's "Project Loon" concept, using balloons to provide connectivity from the sky in hard-to-network areas. (See Amazon Wants Delivery Drones and Broadband: It's All Hot Air for Google.)

I've seen people on -- what else? -- Facebook posting about how this move could be "SkyNET" for real. SkyNET, you'll remember, is the fictional defense network from the Terminator movies that becomes self-aware and decides that the human race is a threat.

If it even comes to pass, Facebook's Titan Aerospace move looks to be much less exciting than that dystopian vision. Most of Facebook's recent buys have been aimed at expanding its customer base, which in turn helps to drive its Internet ad revenue. A communications drone network would be a long-term -- and definitely risky -- move to add yet more customers.

In fact, these drones probably wouldn't be parked in the skies above Manhattan, Shanghai, or London. Rather they would likely be aimed at providing a good enough broadband connection over areas of Sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the globe where it is hard to deploy fiber or power traditional cell sites.

Facebook, like Google, is assuming that the next major wave of Internet users will come from the so-called developing world and use mobile as their primary -- or only -- means of connection to the Internet. Therefore, the company appears to be considering some fairly audacious ways of speeding up network penetration to those parts of the world, hence the potential drone buy.

Could it work? Hard to say. Google has had ambitions about low-orbit communications balloons for years now with very little to show for it so far. (See Google's Balloon Dreams.)

There's no question, however, that communications drones will be some part of our wireless future. It is just a question of how far off that future is. The Federal Aviation Administration in the US, for instance, admitted in February that it won't meet its Fall 2015 deadline for having commercial drones falling in American airspace. (See Here Come the WiFi Drones.)

Long term, however, the potential Facebook move -- or some future alternative connectivity scheme like it -- could further blur the lines between traditional telcos and the over-the-top players looking for the big mobile advertising bucks. (See MWC14: What Are Telcos For?)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

(12)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
Susan Fourtané
50%
50%
Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
3/16/2014 | 1:24:37 PM
Re: Maybe a deal with Nokia is next?
Mitch, 

That's horrible! :( Now I'm going to have nightmares. Maybe I start hiding myself in the closet. 

-Susan
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/14/2014 | 5:17:07 PM
Re: Maybe a deal with Nokia is next?
My theory on what's going on here: Facebook wants to write those annoying Candy Crush game updates on bricks, and use drones to drop them on your house. 
DOShea
50%
50%
DOShea,
User Rank: Blogger
3/9/2014 | 1:25:17 PM
OCP acquisitions?
As the Open Compute Project advances into networking, I'm thinking Facebook could buy one or more of their OCP pals--like Big Switch Networks or similar company?
Susan Fourtané
50%
50%
Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
3/9/2014 | 9:00:34 AM
Maybe a deal with Nokia is next?
"Rather they would likely be aimed at providing a good enough broadband connection over areas of Sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the globe where it is hard to deploy fiber or power traditional cell sites."

This sounds pretty much like Nokia has been doing for some time now in the developing countries "connecting the next million to the Internet" through its affordable mobile devices. 

-Susan
PaulS681
50%
50%
PaulS681,
User Rank: Light Beer
3/8/2014 | 6:11:10 PM
Re: Gamble on the future
Interesting that FB is getting their hands into other technologies. You can't stay stagnant in the technology world and FB clearly isn't doing that.
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/7/2014 | 5:57:42 PM
Re: Gamble on the future
That's the nature of investment. Some of your investments fail. But Facebook seems to have more than its share of failures.
DanJones
50%
50%
DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
3/7/2014 | 12:13:23 PM
Re: Good for telcos
Yeah I imagine they'd partner up if any of this actually comes to pass, which is obviously still an "if"
DanJones
50%
50%
DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
3/7/2014 | 12:11:36 PM
Re: Captain, We're Losing Power
Supposedly solar. I'm checking with them on stats.
Jessie Morrow
50%
50%
Jessie Morrow,
User Rank: Lightning
3/7/2014 | 12:00:31 PM
Captain, We're Losing Power
I goto Solara's site and see these drones are covered with solar cells, so is this where all their power comes from? For five years no less, no hyperbole?
R Clark
50%
50%
R Clark,
User Rank: Blogger
3/6/2014 | 9:03:04 PM
Good for telcos
I think more good news than bad for telcos. If these technologies work, Facebook and Google will need partners in those under-served region to do all the things that telcos do. Plus some countries will insist on local control of the operator.
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
More Blogs from Jonestown
They didn't really think this through, did they...
The company appears to working towards VoLTE support on the iPad, but it's not exactly clear when that will happen.
Will 5G become a worthless term before the communications standard is even defined?
CFO Carter Braxton says that T-Mobile's network was 'much more dense' from the buildout.
SoftBank appears to be taking tighter control of the still-ailing US operator.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Interviews
From 4G to 5G: Alcatel-Lucent's Dave Geary

11|25|14   |   09:09   |   (1) comment


Dave Geary, President of Wireless at Alcatel-Lucent, talks about the evolution of the 4G market, small cells, partnerships, 5G and the IoT.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Building a Secure Telefonica Network With Huawei's High-End Firewall

11|24|14   |   4:37   |   (0) comments


Andrew Davies, IP architect of the Telefonica, a leading digital communications company, discusses the Huawei security gateway solution and putting the solution into the testbed.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Partners with Spirent to Verify CE12816's 10GE Port & TRILL Networking Capabilities

11|24|14   |   2:50   |   (0) comments


Spirent Communications is the world's leading supplier for telecom testing appliances and solutions. Spirent has been in a close partnership with Huawei for a long time.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Saudi Airlines & Its ICT Transformation

11|24|14   |   2:07   |   (0) comments


In this video, Saudi Airlines discusses its network problems and how Huawei's Agile Network is its all-in-one solution.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Agile Switch Benefiting Saudi Arabia's Yamamah Hospital

11|24|14   |   2:40   |   (0) comments


Saudi Arabia's Yamamah Hospital speaks about how Huawei's Agile Switch has improved the medical service's network infrastructure.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
FanPlay & Huawei Build a Wireless Agile Smart Stadium

11|24|14   |   2:13   |   (0) comments


FanPlay is a cloud-based white label service, which is effectively a football fan engagement platform underpinned by mobile payment technology.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Building an Agile Stadium

11|24|14   |   3:54   |   (0) comments


Stadiums may be thousands of tons of concrete and steel, but they now need to be agile. Being at the stadium may not be as alluring as it once was. Sports franchises and stadium operators discuss how to get fans back.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Helps ChinaCache Tackle Challenges in the Internet Industry

11|24|14   |   3:09   |   (0) comments


ChinaCache is China's largest content distribution network supplier. Huawei's CE12800 has provided ChinaCache with very strong support in its establishment of an infrastructure network.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Cefinity on Managed Security Services & Next-Generation Firewall

11|24|14   |   7:05   |   (0) comments


Cefinity is a cloud management service provider in Southeast Asia. Ivan Zhang, CEO of the company, discusses the implementation of security service management in the cloud era.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Agile Gateway in the Eyes of Cefinity

11|24|14   |   2:11   |   (0) comments


Cefinity is a managed service provider for enterprise networks. The company currently uses Huawei's AR series routers for the most complete range of functions. CEO Ivan Zhang speaks about the advantages of the AR series routers.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
CTO of Bus-Online Talks About Huawei's Agile Gateway

11|24|14   |   2:53   |   (0) comments


Bus-Online covers around 100 million users everyday. In addition to providing mobile TV, and advertising services to the public, Bus-Online has also entered the field of mobile Internet.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Amsterdam ArenA as an Agile Campus

11|24|14   |   3:31   |   (0) comments


The Amsterdam ArenA, home of the Ajax soccer team, can be a crowded space. ArenA has partnered with Huawei to work on bringing ample bandwidth to 53,000 people at the same time.
Upcoming Live Events
December 2, 2014, New York City
December 3, 2014, New York City
December 8-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
February 10, 2015, Atlanta, GA
April 14, 2015, New York City, NY
May 6, 2015, McCormick Convention Center, Chicago, IL
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
Irish Telecom outlines the rise of VoIP technology, including its adoption within businesses and their perception of its quality.
Hot Topics
$38.3M: Ain't That a Kik in the SMS
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 11/20/2014
Do You Have a 2020 Vision?
Dennis Mendyk, Vice President of Research, Heavy Reading, 11/21/2014
Operators Should Block Ads to Get Their Cut, Startup Says
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 11/24/2014
$35B+ Spectrum Auction Dings Verizon, Shines Dish
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 11/24/2014
Amazon Eyes Ad-Supported Video – NY Post
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 11/25/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed