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Facebook Debuts Terragraph & ARIES to Extend Wireless

Mitch Wagner
4/13/2016
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As part of its ten-year mission to connect the billions of unconnected people around the world, Facebook on Wednesday launched "Terragraph" technology for building low-cost multi-gigabit wireless small cell and WiFi networks in urban environments. The social network also introduced Project ARIES, a Massive MIMO radio tower for rural areas.

Terragraph and Project ARIES, along with Facebook 's previously announced Aquila drone, are designed to extend connectivity to the world's vast unserved regions, under the umbrella of the social network's Connectivity Labs.

Announcing the new initiatives at the Facebook Developer Conference Wednesday, Jay Parikh, VP of engineering at Facebook , shared a slide showing global connectivity on 2G, 3G, and 4G, illustrating how much of the world still lacks connectivity.

Still Disconnected
Much of the world still lacks connectivity. (Source: Facebook)
Much of the world still lacks connectivity.
(Source: Facebook)

He then narrowed in on a piece of Africa encompassing South Africa, Madagascar, and Mozambique. The orange areas show populated terrain, and much of that lacks connectivity.

 

Not Online
Orange areas are populated parts of southern Africa; blue areas are connected. (Source: Facebook)
Orange areas are populated parts of southern Africa; blue areas are connected.
(Source: Facebook)

 

These areas lack connectivity because the infrastructure doesn't exist -- it's too expensive to install base statiosn and other new equipment, Parikh said.

The problem requires "radical new approaches to get the connected unconnected," Parikh said. Small improvements are insufficient. "Our rule in the Connectivity Lab is we're looking for gains that will make things 10x faster or 10x cheaper or both."

Terragraph networks will be built using nodes that can be deployed on "street furniture" such as lampposts, utility poles, and buildings, broadcasting both small cell coverage and WiFi, Parikh said. They're designed to provide the least expensive connectivity at highest capacity for urban environments.

 

How It Works
Terregraph nodes connect urban downtowns. (Source: Facebook)
Terregraph nodes connect urban downtowns.
(Source: Facebook)

 

The nodes rely on low-cost commodity WiGig chips and other COTS components, and runs over the unlicensed 60 GHz spectrum. (See 60GHz: A Frequency to Watch.)

Terragraph uses a new routing protocol for "improved" collison detction, is IPV6-only,and "SDN-like" cloud controllers, Facebook says in a blog post introducing both Terragraph and ARIES. It can provide multi-gigabit per second links.

The city of San Jose, Calif., plans to trial Terragraph downtown later this year.

 

Eye Appeal
Terregraph nodes are designed to be attractive. (Source: Facebook.)
Terregraph nodes are designed to be attractive.
(Source: Facebook.)

 

Facebook plans to contribute Terragraph to Telecom Infra, a group of telecom providers working with Facebook on open source infrastructure hardware. (See Facebook TIPs Telcos Towards Open Source Networks.)

"It is not our intent to build and maintain and deploy these networks ourselves. We want to advance the state of the art," Parikh said.

Also introduced Wednesday, Facebook's Project ARIES (Antenna Radio Integration for Efficiency in Spectrum), is a prototype Massive MIMO antenna.

Conventional radio uses a single antenna that shares connection among multiple suers, resulting in congestion and user frustration. Project ARIES supports 96 antennas and 24 data streams, with an anticipated "gamechanger" bandwidth of 100 gigabits per second per hertz, at least an order of magnitude better than today, Parikh said. Facebook has demonstrated ARIES at 71 bps/Hz spectral efficiency. (See Mimosa's Backhaul Bubbles With Massive MIMO and Getting Massive at DoCoMo's 5G Lab.)

Next page: No Pilot, No cockpit, no bathroom

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steve q
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steve q,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/14/2016 | 10:57:00 PM
Re: Race
Is this the same plan that Verizon wireless is looking into with the new 5g and Boston Ma?  I see the best idea is to find better way's so those on the move can stay online and keep the business world moving. The need for more Wi-Fi hotspot's in area that need to reach more customer.
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
4/14/2016 | 2:16:25 PM
Re: Smart city implications
msilbey - By application elements, you mean smart parking alerts, streetlights, trash bins, and so on?
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
4/14/2016 | 2:15:29 PM
Re: Race
danielcawrey - Yes, Google and Facebook are in the amazing positions of having run out of people on the planet to use their service. They can either get more peole on the Internet online, or discover life on other planets. 
msilbey
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msilbey,
User Rank: Blogger
4/14/2016 | 12:52:51 PM
Smart city implications
I am very interested in how this (Project Aries) plays out in conjunction with smart city initiatives. It seems likely that any new city-based wireless infrastructure experiments will have to include a smart city application component. When testing this out in the US at least, it just makes sense to do both at once. 
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/13/2016 | 9:25:05 PM
Race
This race between Google and Facebook to connect the world will only become more competitive.

Both companies must continue to grow, and the fact that they are both deep in initiatives to do this suggests they know the trajectory. It's simple: they need more users, and giving those users internet is the solution to growth. 
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