Summary of Facebook Connectivity Projects
Facebook Connectivity works with partners to develop these technologies and bring them to people across the world. Since 2013, Facebook Connectivity has accelerated access to a faster internet for more than 300M people around the world. Earlier this week, during an event called Inside the Lab, our engineers shared the latest developments on some of our connectivity technologies, which aim to improve internet capacity across the world by sea, land and air:
- Subsea cables connect continents and are the backbone of the global internet. Our first-ever transatlantic subsea cable system will connect Europe to the U.S. This new cable provides 200X more internet capacity than the transatlantic cables of the 2000s. This investment builds on other recent subsea expansions, including 2Africa PEARLS which will be the longest subsea cable system in the world connecting Africa, Europe and Asia.
- To slash the time and cost required to roll out fiber-optic internet to communities, Facebook developed a robot called Bombyx that moves along power lines, wrapping them with fiber cable. Since we first unveiled Bombyx, it has become lighter, faster and more agile, and we believe it could have a radical effect on the economics of fiber deployment around the world.
- Facebook also developed Terragraph, a wireless technology that delivers internet at fiber speed over the air. This technology has already brought high-speed internet to more than 6,500 homes in Anchorage, Alaska, and deployment has also started in Perth, Australia, one of the most isolated capital cities in the world.
Bombyx wraps fiber around existing telephone wires, clearing obstacles and flipping as it needs to along its route. (Source: Facebook)
Facebook wants to bring high-speed reliable internet to more than 300M people — but the work doesn’t stop there. Connecting the next billion will require many different approaches. And as people look for more immersive experiences in new virtual spaces like the metaverse, we need to increase access to a more reliable and affordable internet for everyone. The company believes this work is fundamental for creating greater equity where everyone can benefit from the economic, education and social benefits of a digitally connected world.
“High speed, reliable Internet access that connects us to people around the world is something that’s lacking for billions of people around the world,” Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s chief technology officer, declared during the company’s “Inside the Lab” roundtable discussion. “Business as usual will not solve it. We need radical breakthroughs to provide radical improvements – 10x faster speeds, 10x lower costs.”
Facebook and its partners are in the process of building 150,000 kilometers of subsea cables, and working on new sea-based power stations that will provide those cables with power.
“This will have a major impact on underserved regions of the world, notably in Africa, where our work is set to triple the amount of Internet bandwidth reaching the continent,” Dan Rabinovitsj, Facebook’s VP of connectivity, explained. That activity partly ties into a new segment of subsea cables called 2Africa PEARLS that will connect three continents: Africa, Europe and Asia.
2Africa Pearls, a new segment of subsea cable that connects Africa, Europe and Asia, will bring the total length of the 2Africa cable system to more than 45,000 kilometers, making it the longest subsea cable system ever deployed, the company said.
Cynthia Perret, Facebook’s infrastructure program manager, noted every transatlantic cable Facebook connects will contain 24 fiber pairs. “Capacity alone isn’t enough,” she said, noting that Facebook is also working on ways to configure and adapt the amount of capacity provided to each landing point. Facebook is also utilizing a model called “Atlantis” to help forecast and optimize where subsea cable routes need to be built. An integrated adaptive bandwidth system will likewise allow Facebook to shift capacities based on traffic patterns and reduce congestion and improve reliably, Perret explained.
Facebook tests voice and video calls in its main app
Facebook and Liquid Intelligent Technologies to build huge fiber network in Africa
Facebook Inc. and Africa’s largest fiber optics company, Liquid Intelligent Technologies, are extending their reach on the continent by laying 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) of fiber in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The two companies intend to build an extensive long haul and metro fiber network. Apparently, this is part of Facebook’s effort to “connect the unconnected,” especially in 3rd world countries.
The move will make Facebook one of the biggest investors in fiber networks in the region. The cable will eventually extend the reach of 2Africa, a major sub-sea line that’s also been co-developed by Facebook, the two companies said in a July 5th statement.
Facebook will invest in the fiber build and support network planning. Liquid Technologies will own, build and operate the fiber network, and provide wholesale services to mobile network operators and internet service providers. The network will help create a digital corridor from the Atlantic Ocean through the Congo Rainforest, the second largest rainforest after the Amazon, to East Africa, and onto the Indian Ocean. Liquid Technologies has been working on the digital corridor for more than two years, which now reaches Central DRC. This corridor will connect DRC to its neighboring countries including Angola, Congo Brazzaville, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.
The new build will stretch from Central DRC to the Eastern border with Rwanda and extend the reach of 2Africa, a major undersea cable that will land along both the East and West African coasts, and better connect Africa to the Middle East and Europe. Additionally, Liquid will employ more than 5,000 people from local communities to build the fiber network.
“This is one of the most difficult fiber builds ever undertaken, crossing more than 2,000 kilometers of some of the most challenging terrain in the world” said Nic Rudnick, Group CEO of Liquid Intelligent Technologies. “Liquid Technologies and Facebook have a common mission to provide affordable infrastructure to bridge connectivity gaps, and we believe our work together will have a tremendous impact on internet accessibility across the region.”
Liquid Intelligent Technologies is present in more than 20 countries in Africa, with a vision of a digitally connected future that leaves no African behind.
“This fiber build with Liquid Technologies is one of the most exciting projects we have worked on,” said Ibrahima Ba, Director of Network Investments, Emerging Markets at Facebook. “We know that deploying fibre in this region is not easy, but it is a crucial part of extending broadband access to under-connected areas. We look forward to seeing how our fibre build will help increase the availability and improve the affordability of high-quality internet in DRC.”
Facebook has been striving to improve connectivity in Africa to take advantage of a young population and the increasing availability and affordability of smartphones. The social-media giant switched to a predominantly fiber strategy following the failed launch of a satellite to beam signal around the continent in 2016.
About Liquid Intelligent Technologies:
Liquid Intelligent Technologies is a pan-African technology group present in more than 20 countries, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Liquid has firmly established itself as the leading provider of pan-African digital infrastructure with an extensive network covering over 100,000 km. Liquid Intelligent Technologies is redefining network, cloud, and cybersecurity offerings through strategic partnerships with leading global players, innovative business applications, smart cloud services and world-class security on the African continent. Liquid Intelligent Technologies is now a comprehensive, one-stop technology group that provides customized digital solutions to public and private sector companies across the continent under several business units including Liquid Networks, Liquid Cloud and CyberSecurity and Africa Data Centers. For more information contact: Angela Chandy [email protected]
FCC Grants Facebook permission to test converged WiFi/LTE indoor network in Menlo Park, CA
Following last month’s FCC filing to test a small 5G network, Facebook has filed another FCC Special Temporary Authority (STA) petition to test a “converged wireless system” that could potentially support concurrent communications across Wi-Fi and cellular networks in Menlo Park, CA (Facebook corporate headquarters).
In its FCC filing (granted June 23,2021), Facebook said “The experiment involves short-term testing of a LTE over-the-air setup for an indoor demonstration that is not likely to last more than six months, making an STA more appropriate than a conventional experimental license.”
Also, that it is researching a “proof of concept for a converged wireless system that will operate at the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band and at Band 3 (1710MHz to 2495 MHz). The goal of the proof of concept is to create a demonstration and see if such a system may be viable. The system that will be tested will have a simple radio head that will be able to operate as a Wi-Fi Radio at 2.4 GHz and as a Band 3 cellular radio (LTE) concurrently. We will wirelessly connect dedicated client devices to demonstrate performance.”
The FCC approved Facebook’s request on June 23,2021. It will remain in effect until its scheduled expiration date of November 10, 2021. Facebook petition was filed under the “FCL Tech” name, which the company has been used for previous wireless tests in the 6GHz band.
Facebook will be using five units of unspecified AVX wireless network gear (E 102289 model). AVX is a Kyocera Group company. Their website states:
AVX Corporation is a leading international manufacturer and supplier of advanced electronic components and interconnect, sensor, control and antenna solutions with 33 manufacturing facilities in 16 countries around the world.
We offer a broad range of devices including capacitors, resistors, filters, couplers, sensors, controls, circuit protection devices, connectors and antennas. AVX components can be found in many electronic devices and systems worldwide.
Since WiFi at 2.4 GHz is in unlicensed spectrum (and being used indoors), one would assume that Facebook would also like to operate LTE in unlicensed spectrum in their converged network.
LTE in unlicensed spectrum (LTE-Unlicensed, LTE-U) is a proposed extension of the 4G-LTE wireless standard intended to allow cellular network operators to offload some of their data traffic by accessing the unlicensed 5 GHz frequency band. LTE-Unlicensed is a proposal, originally developed by Qualcomm, for the use of the 4G LTE radio communications technology in unlicensed spectrum, such as the 5 GHz band used by IEEE 802.11a and 802.11ac compliant Wi-Fi equipment. It would serve as an alternative to carrier-owned Wi-Fi hotspots. Currently, there are a number of variants of LTE operation in the unlicensed band, namely LTE-U, License Assisted Access (LAA), and MulteFire.
License Assisted Access (LAA) is a feature of LTE that leverages the unlicensed 5 GHz band in combination with licensed spectrum to increase performance. It uses carrier aggregation in the downlink to combine LTE in unlicensed 5 GHz band with LTE in the licensed band to provide better data rates and a better user experience.
However, Facebook’s STA is only for the band between 1710-2495 MHz – not the 5 GHz band.
Facebook to test 5G small cell network with SON features; Combine 5G access with Terragraph wireless backhaul?
Facebook to test 5G small cell network with SON features; Combine 5G access with Terragraph wireless backhaul?
The FCC today approved Facebook’s application to test a 5G small cell network across a wide range of mid-band spectrum bands (see below) at its Menlo Park, California headquarters.
Facebook told the FCC in its application:
The experiment involves short-term testing of a 5G over-the-air setup for an outdoor demonstration that is not likely to last more than six months, making an STA (Special Temporary Authority) more appropriate than a conventional experimental license.
The purpose of operation is to demonstrate the self-organizing network (“SON”) features in a 5G over-the-air setup operating in a small cell configuration. Lab testing does not allow feature realization. The outdoor test setup aims at validating the improvements done to 5G cellular networks.
The improvements involve:
(1) Load balancing between the cells in an attempt to optimize the resource utilization, reduce call drops, and create a better user experience by means of improved quality of service; and
(2) Run time selection and updates of the 5G cell physical layer cell identifiers (“PCIs”) to avoid conflict between neighboring cells, thereby avoiding UE drops and reducing network signaling traffic.
The frequency bands to be used are: 2.496-2.690 GHz, 3.3-3.6 GHz, 3.7-3.8 GHz, and 4.8-4.9GHz. A directional antenna will be used to beam the 5G signals.
Facebook did not name the network equipment suppliers for this test nor did they state why they needed to perform these tests. The only hint given was to test “self-organizing network (“SON”) features in a 5G over-the-air setup operating in a small cell configuration.”
One could speculate that Facebook might want to deploy a private 5G network across its sprawling Menlo Park campus. Or they might want to provide 5G access to municipalities using mid-band spectrum.
The company does have some recent experience designing and deploying millimeter wave wireless distribution networks (based on Terragraph) which could be combined with a 5G access network.
- Facebook’s Terragraph wireless backhaul technology is being used by Cambium Networks in their 60 GHz cnWave solution. Terragraph is a high-bandwidth, low-cost wireless solution to connect cities. Rapidly deployed on street poles or rooftops to create a mmWave wireless distribution network, Terragraph is capable of delivering fiber-like connectivity at a lower cost than fiber, making it ideally suited for applications such as fixed wireless access and Wi-Fi backhaul.
- In June 2018, Magyar Telekom, subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, deployed their first Terragraph network in Mikebuda, Hungary. Terragraph improved local network speeds from 5M bps to 650M bps.
- Common Networks, a California based Internet Service Provider, deployed a Terragraph network to serve customers in Alameda, CA. Local businesses and customers of Common Networks saw an immediate improvement in internet speeds. Common Networks presented their approach at a 2018 IEEE ComSoc SCV technical meeting in Santa Clara, CA.
Facebook’s Terragraph gains momentum with operator, vendor buy-in