Facebook confirmed to Light Reading that it now operates a satellite equipped with broadband potential.
"Arianespace [a satellite launch company] successfully launched a ride-share rocket mission that included a Facebook experimental satellite designed to test ways to improve broadband connectivity," the company wrote in response to questions. "We believe satellite technology will enable the next generation of broadband infrastructure, helping to bridge the digital divide."
Facebook stressed that it is not planning to become a provider of satellite connectivity or to launch a constellation of satellites. The company declined to provide any further details on its efforts.
The development comes roughly two years after IEEE reported that Facebook had registered its desire to launch a low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite under the auspices of a subsidiary called PointView and a satellite called Athena. A subsequent article by Wired indicated Facebook's interest in satellite Internet stretches back to 2016.
Nonetheless, Facebook's official launch into space yet again underscores the growing interest around providing Internet services from orbit. A large and growing number of companies – from SpaceX to Amazon to SES – are looking at new satellite technologies that promise to dramatically improve the performance of satellite-based broadband services.
SpaceX's Starlink service appears to be just weeks away from a public launch of its initial commercial services.
Such efforts reflect a growing desire to offer high-speed Internet services into every nook and cranny of the Earth, as well as improvements in technologies supporting the transmission of Internet signals from orbit.
Facebook's new satellite is just the latest test by the company in the field of connectivity. The "connectivity" group within Facebook since 2013 has dabbled in Internet connection technologies ranging from drones to lasers to robots that can deploy fiber networks. Facebook Connectivity also works with the Telecom Infra Project, an organization working on advanced networking technologies in the telecom sector. Facebook said its connectivity group has "helped" bring 100 million people online via work with the likes of AeroNet, Common Networks and others.
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