In what is a first of the kind test for Facebook (FB), the social media giant announced Wednesday it is testing high speed gigabit wireless Internet in the city of San Jose, California.
In a blog post announcing the initiative, Facebook said that while residents won’t be able to access Facebook’s wireless network during the trial, the idea is to eventually make the technology available for cities that are very populated and have poor Internet service. (See more: Facebook Dives Into Augmented, Virtual Realities on Day 1 of F8)
“Our ability to build communities at Facebook depends on people being connected. Communities come in all sizes and across all regions, but many aren't currently being served by traditional methods of connectivity,” said
Yael Maguire, who leads the connectivity lab at Facebook, said in the blog post. “Urban areas don't have enough bandwidth to support more devices running more data-heavy experiences, while in remote communities the technology is often too expensive to deploy.” Maguire said that in urban areas the social media giant is working to rid city dwellers of dead zones by utilizing Terragraph, a custom designed, multi node wireless system. The idea behind the system, said Maguire, is to extend fiber with wireless technology rather than adding fiber, which can be costly and take a long time to build out. The executive noted that while it’s a “simple concept” it has never been done at the scale Facebook is doing it in San Jose.“There's more testing to do before we're ready to contribute this technology to the wider ecosystem, but we're really encouraged by our progress so far,” Maguire said.
This isn’t the first time Facebook has made a foray into providing wireless internet access to people in hard to reach spots. In October, it said it was in talks with countries for trial broadcasts from its solar-powered drone dubbed Aquila. (See more: Facebook Plans 'Trial Broadcasts' Via Drone.)
Aquilla weighs less than 1,000 pounds and has a wingspan of just under 138 feet. It was first tested in June this year and remained in flight for 96 minutes. It provides Internet connectivity and bringing people online. Aquilla crashed in its first test flight late last year due to unexpected turbulence. Facebook said it’s planning more tests flights for Aquilla this year in Maquire’s blog post.