Since 2013, Facebook Connectivity, together with our partners, has accelerated people's access to a faster internet around the world. Currently, over 300M people have benefited from better infrastructure, network analytics, or access technologies. We have accomplished this thanks to strong partnerships and innovative technologies, such as:
- Our first-ever transatlantic, 24-fiber-pair subsea cable system will connect Europe to the United States. This new cable will provide 200 times more capacity than the transatlantic cables of the 2000s and builds on our recent news about 2Africa Pearls, the subsea cable connecting Africa, Asia, and Europe, and that will make the 2Africa cable system the longest in the world, and will provide connectivity for up to 3 billion people.
- We are making fiber deployment significantly more economical through Bombyx, a robot that can climb medium-voltage power lines, which exist in so much of the world, and install fiber onto them. Today, Bombyx is lighter, faster, and more agile than our first-generation design. We are also making Bombyx fully autonomous, using machine vision sensors to help it better navigate around obstacles.
- Terragraph, a wireless solution that beams multi-gigabit connectivity through the air, has already brought high-speed internet to more than 6,500 homes in Anchorage, Alaska, and deployment has started in Perth, Australia. We license Terragraph for free to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). To date, these partners have shipped more than 30,000 Terragraph units to more than 100 service providers and system integrators around the world.
Our use of the internet for work, education, health care, and social connection continues to increase, with data consumption per person growing 20 percent to 30 percent annually. And despite this rapid growth, nearly half of the world is being left behind, either lacking adequate access to the internet or going completely unconnected.
To bring more people online to a faster, more reliable internet, Facebook Connectivity works with partners to develop new technologies for access to high-speed internet. Today, we’re sharing the latest developments on a few of these connectivity technologies, which aim to deliver major improvements in internet capacity across the world by sea, land, and air.
“We have seen that economies flourish when there is widely accessible internet for individuals and businesses,” says Cynthia Perrett, Facebook’s Fiber Program manager. In Nigeria, for instance, increased broadband connectivity resulted in a 7.8 percent increase in the likelihood of employment for people in areas connected to fiber optic cables. This means that for every 1 million people living in areas connected to fiber, an additional 78,000 people became employed. Or consider the Democratic Republic of Congo, where increased connectivity led to a 19 percent increase in GDP per capita ($789 vs. $663 at purchasing power parity).
Subsea cables lay the foundation for the global internet connecting continents, and as we build more than 150,000 kilometers of them with our partners, we’re also working on new technologies that will enable floating, solar-powered buoys in the middle of the ocean to help these cables carry much greater volumes of data.
While subsea cables are part of the foundation of the global internet, once a subsea cable reaches shore, the next step is to deliver bandwidth to communities. On land, we have developed Bombyx, a robot that has the potential to dramatically reduce the cost of rolling out fiber-optic cables to communities by moving autonomously along power lines and wrapping them with cable. And for dense urban areas and environments that hinder fiber rollout, we’ve built Terragraph, a wireless technology that beams gigabit-speed internet through the air to connect homes and businesses.
“Through our connectivity efforts, we’ve helped accelerate more than 300 million people’s access to a faster internet, and we look forward to enabling affordable high-quality connectivity for the next billion,” says Dan Rabinovitsj, VP of Facebook Connectivity.
Today, we’re sharing the latest on these innovative connectivity technologies being developed inside our labs.
Subsea cables: Building infrastructure through innovation
When we use our phones, computers, or VR headsets to connect to someone we care about or to find information we need, we often forget about the technology that makes it all possible. Fiber-optic cables are one of the best ways for delivering affordable high-speed internet because they carry more than a thousand times the bandwidth of other communications technologies. While fiber has huge potential for improving connectivity, more than 70 percent of the world still lives over 10 kilometers away from fiber as of 2019. This is partly due to some very difficult challenges that most people aren’t aware of but would have a huge impact if solved. These challenges include rough terrain, such as mountains and deserts; high costs for operators to build fiber in rural, sparsely populated areas; and lack of affordable materials that can stand up to rough weather conditions, ranging from high winds to desert heat.
For this reason, we continue to invest in improving subsea fiber-optic cables and expanding their reach so we can better connect more people. For example, until recently, transoceanic subsea cables were composed of just two to eight fiber pairs. We have partnered with various industry players to push those boundaries, and today we are thrilled to announce the first-ever transatlantic, 24-fiber-pair subsea cable system that will connect Europe and the United States with a capacity of half a petabit per second — that’s half a million gigabits! To put that in perspective, that’s 200 times the capacity of the transatlantic cables built in the early 2000s.