Facebook are not resting on their oars to provide high speed Internet to remote areas of the world. This time around they have developed a new technology that would potentially revolutionized the way data is transmitted in places where it is difficult to deplore telecoms infrastructure.
This new high-speed data transfer system would use laser beams. Basically, we are talking wireless communications using light instead of fiber optics over dedicated spectrums or licenses.
In theory, transferring data wirelessly using lasers has been used/demonstrated before. The issue has being to transmit the data across vast distances, especially in remote areas without getting discouraged by the cost of the whole affair.
Facebook’s Connectivity Labs is at the center of this initiative. The new technology solves two problems immediately: effective delivery and wide coverage.
Even though using wireless in getting internet to new areas is the normal and cost effective way of doing it, wireless comes with speed limitations when compared to optic cables.
Using this method (laser beam) would reduce a lot of bureaucratic hurdles involved in buying or bidding for available spectrum for the transmission of the internet data.
Again, multiple telecoms providers can utilize the same air space or work in close proximity without interfering with each other’s signals.
Normally there are several issues in sending signals over vast distances using laser. For instance, for high speed laser beams, the devices receiving the signals need to be very small (smaller than those small resistors found in small radios) to work at the required speed.
As the laser beam travel further away from their point of origin, they get dispersed over a wide area and become larger than the small receivers or detectors.
To focus and concentrate the beam back to what is usable, special lenses have to be used, making the whole thing too complex and very expensive. The bottom-line been that it is not feasible to do it.
So what Facebook’s Connectivity Labs are telling the world is that they have now found a way to use very large detectors or receivers without compromising the speed of the internet signal.
The submission by Connectivity Labs explains it better:
A combination of optics and mechanical systems can be used to track the position of the detector and point it to the laser, but these approaches add quite a bit of complexity. The new light collector uses plastic optical fibers containing organic dye molecules that absorb blue light and emit green light. This setup replaces the classical optics and motion platform typically required to point the light to the collection area.”
This is just one of the initiative by Facebook to make internet access to remote areas easy. The most ambitious is the Project Aquila which intends to use special drones to beam wireless signals. When it comes on stream, the drones would work in conjunction with special infrastructure on the ground and local telecoms firms.
Free Basics is the other Facebook project to bring cheap internet to poor communities. Though it has met with some controversies in countries like India and Egypt, the program is still powering on in other countries like Nigeria.
Though to be fair, the Free Basics initiative has not really caught the imagination of people in Nigeria. Maybe it has to do with the little publicity given to it.
For Facebook, the end game is not exactly clear. Is there a point where all these projects would come together into one whole program? Remember, they just recently decided to deploy a submarine cable across the Atlantic to link the continent of America with Europe.
Anyway, there must be a point to all this. For me, if they can get that laser beam device to work soon, I’ll more than happy to pay the price, as long as it is cheaper than what we currently pay for internet access.
image credit: computerworld.com; indiantvnews.com; endgadget.com