“It may not be obvious that Facebook has anything to say about spectrum,” said Chris Weasler, Facebook and Internet.org global head of spectrum policy and connectivity, at the Pacific Telecommunications Council’s “Spectrum Futures” conference in Singapore.
But Facebook has a direct interest in the number of humans connected to the Internet. And among current problems is the slowing rate at which new users are coming online.
In 2010, the rate of adoption growth was 14 percent,” said Weasler. In 2014 the rate dropped to less than seven percent.
“People can’t afford it, or just don’t know why it is relevant,” Weasler said. That was, in large part, the thinking behind Internet.org, the organization working in various ways to connect the two thirds of the world that does not have Internet access.
Facebook also operates a “Connectivity Lab” that earlier had developed the Open Compute Project. And many would note that Facebook acquired Ascenta, an aerospace technology company with expertise designing and building high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) aircraft.
The lab now has built, and will test this year a new unmanned aerial vehicle designed to provide Internet access in the gap between fixed networks on one end and satellite on the other. “We think we can provide 10 Gbps of capacity over a 100-kilometer diameter area.
Significantly, Weasler said the UAV was designed to operate with a wholesale business model, such as by providing backhaul to mobile cell towers. At the upcoming World Radiocommunications Conference Facebook and others will be proposing an exploration of several potential frequency bands at which such a service could operate, long term. Those include the 10.95 GHz to 11.2 GHz band, 11.45 GHz to 11.7 GHz, 21.4 GHz to 22 GHz, 24.25 GHz to 28.35 GHz.
It bears repeating that Facebook does not see itself as an Internet service provider, but rather a backhaul platform, available to others, perhaps especially mobile operators.