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Cost effective and fast internet access is still a dream for many even as it becomes increasingly ubiquitous for many living in cities. At its F8 developer conference, the tech company announced two new terrestrial systems that are focused on improving the speed, efficiency, and quality of internet connectivity around the world. The two projects are Terragraph and Project Aries (Antenna Radio Integration for Efficiency in Spectrum).
Facebook reckons that WiFi and LTE infrastructure is unable to keep up with the fast increase in the consumption of photos and videos and the high resolutions like 4K and 8K at which they are being produced in. The company does not think fiber is a solution either. It notes that the high costs of laying the fiber “makes the goal of ubiquitous gigabit citywide coverage unachievable and unaffordable” for most countries.
Terragraph is a multi-node wireless system focused on bringing high-speed internet connectivity to overly populated areas. It does this by possessing the capability to route and steer the internet signal around interferences such as tall buildings and internet congestion that are usually found in condensed urban environments. According to Facebook, the 60GHz signal will be placed across a city at 200-250 meter intervals.
Terragraph, according to the company, will leverage technology created to manage Facebook’s massive data center infrastructure. Terragraph is currently being tested at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park with a broader trial to be rolled out in California, in the city of San Jose.
The project focuses on two transmission technology efficiencies, one a spectrally efficient and the other energy efficient. Spectrally efficient, according to Facebook, allows for higher throughput in even the smallest bandwidths whilst energy efficient allows for extended coverage range. ARIES is aimed for populations outside of the city, in rural communities.
“From our recent population distribution study across 20 countries, we know that nearly 97 percent of the global population lives within 40 kilometers of a major city. As such, we are interested in developing this technology to harness the incredible gains in providing communications to rural communities from city centers” the company said.
After completing a test that conclusively demonstrated the 10x spectral and energy efficiency gains of 4G cellular, the company is convinced that ARIES will work for rural communities.
Providing internet to rural communities is no easy fit, both in scale and costs, but Facebook realises this and says that with the two systems, Terragraph and Project ARIES, allows them to do so by avoiding the high cost rural infrastructure and still provide high-speed connectivity.
The two systems are open to wireless communication research and academic community, with the hope that its already implemented algorithms can be improved or new ideas to be devised towards a goal to broader connectivity challenges of the future.