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: Light Sabre
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
FakeMitchWagner
50%
50%
FakeMitchWagner,
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: Light Sabre
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.
FakeMitchWagner
50%
50%
FakeMitchWagner,
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
Tune in today to get the latest on the newest wireless tech on the block.
Alpental buy gets Google some radio talent now and helps it hedge bets on a 5G future.
Big data analytics for carriers, self-optimizing networks, business small cells and a little app that could save you big money are among the contenders for the best mobile product of 2014 at Leading Lights.
EE and Sprint's Spark duke it out for the most forward-looking 4G offering of 2014.
Flash Poll
LRTV Custom TV
Distributed NFV-Based Business Services by RAD

7|18|14   |   5:38   |   (0) comments


With the ETSI-approved Distributed NFV PoC running in the background, RAD's CEO, Dror Bin, talks about why D-NFV makes compelling sense for service providers, and about the dollars and cents RAD is putting behind D-NFV.
LRTV Custom TV
MRV – Accelerating Packet Optical Convergence

7|15|14   |   6:06   |   (0) comments


Giving you network insight to make your network smarter.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV-Enabled Ethernet for Generating New Revenues

7|15|14   |   5:49   |   (0) comments


Cyan's Planet Orchestrate allows service providers and their end-customers to activate software-based capabilities such as firewalls and encryption on top of existing Ethernet services in just minutes.
LRTV Custom TV
Symkloud NVF-Ready Video Transcoding, Big Data

7|9|14   |   3:41   |   (0) comments


Kontron and ISV partner Vantrix demonstrate high-performance video transcoding and data analytic solutions on same 2U standard platform that is ready for SDN and NFV deployments made by mobile, cable and cloud operators.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
The Evolving Role of Hybrid Video for Competitive Success

7|4|14   |   4:09   |   (0) comments


At Huawei's Global Analysts Summit in Shenzhen, China, Steven C. Hawley from TV Strategies speaks to us about the evolving role of hybrid video for competitive success.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
How CSPs Leverage Big Data in the Digital Economy

7|4|14   |   4:48   |   (2) comments


Justin van der Lande from Analysys Mason shares with us his views on how telecom operators can leverage customer asset monetization with big data. His discusses the current status of big data applications and the challenges and opportunities for telecom operators in the digital economy era.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Accelerator for Digital Business – Future Oriented BSS

7|4|14   |   3:08   |   (0) comments


Mobile and internet are becoming intertwined; IT and CT are integrating; and leading CSPs have begun to transform to information service and entertainment providers. How should the BSS system evolve to enable this transformation? Karl Whitelock, an analyst at Frost & Sullivan, shares his views.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Orange Tunisia Discusses Multi-Band Antenna With EasyRET Solution

7|4|14   |   2:45   |   (0) comments


As new site acquisition becomes more difficult, Orange Tunisia has requested multi-band antenna to support UMTS and LTE innovation. Some things considered include reducing the cost of antenna maintenance and having high reliability antenna and EasyRET solution.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
How Telefonica Spain Considers Antenna Selection for LTE Network Deployment

7|4|14   |   2:19   |   (0) comments


Tony Conlan, Global CTO of RAN, Telefonica, shares his opinion on antennas in LTE network deployment: Tower space is the premier requirement on antennas; reliability is important to reduce OPEX; and EasyRET solution will be helpful for antenna maintenance.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
dtac Thailand: Multi-band Antenna & Capacity Solution for a Better MBB Experience

7|3|14   |   3:45   |   (0) comments


With the development of LTE, tower space and load are limited for new antenna, but users' capacity requirements are growing fast. To provide a better MBB experience, Panya Vechbanyongratana from dtac Thailand shared his experiences and antenna requirements.
LRTV Documentaries
BTE Panel: Network of the Future

7|2|14   |   1:00:57   |   (0) comments


Full-length video of the ATIS Panel Discussion: 'How Far Away Is the Network of the Future & What Does It Look Like?' from the Big Telecom Event (BTE) in Chicago.
LRTV Custom TV
Redknee Supports BH Telecom With Redknee Unified

7|2|14   |   6.14   |   (0) comments


Lucas Skoczkowski, CEO of Redknee, and Amir Orucevic, Director BH Mobile, discuss how the benefits of the Redknee Unified suite of products provide BH Telecom with innovation and leadership in the market, with the flexibility to launch services faster to the market, provide new and compelling promotions and pricing models, and combine services in order to drive ...
Upcoming Live Events!!
September 16, 2014, Santa Clara, CA
September 16, 2014, Santa Clara, CA
October 29, 2014, New York City
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
Infographics
Allot's latest MobileTrends Charging Report shows that value-based pricing plans are up from 35% in 2011 to 85% in 2014.
Hot Topics
Microsoft to Axe 12,500 Ex-Nokia Employees
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 7/17/2014
GM: 10 Car Models on Road With AT&T's LTE
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 7/18/2014
Have IBM & Apple Partnered Their Way to Cloud Leadership?
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 7/18/2014
Analytics, Security Key to Apple, IBM Tie-Up
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 7/16/2014
Will Santa Fe Strategy Be a Message to Munis?
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Utility Communications/IoT, 7/18/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed