Facebook has teamed up with chipmaking giant Qualcomm to help bring blazingly fast, gigabit Wi-Fi to dense cities within the next few years.
When it comes to ambitions, Facebook’s goals are pretty simple. The tech juggernaut wants the world to have internet access (and, presumably, to use its social media platform). As part of that end goal, the company has been working on initiatives to bring free or low-cost internet to developing areas.
One of those endeavors is Terragraph, a millimeter-wave wireless technology that leverages the same unlicensed spectrum currently used by firms testing 5G cellular networks. Now, it seems Qualcomm has gotten onboard. In a press release, the San Diego-based silicon giant said it will begin integrating Terragraph technology into its chipsets.
First announced at Facebook’s 2016 developer conference, the social media company describes Terragraph as a “multi-node wireless system focused on bringing high-speed internet connectivity to dense urban areas.”
The companies noted that the move should pave the way for manufacturers to begin building devices and solutions that use 60GHz millimeter-wave technology. The system is being tailored to provide efficient outdoor connectivity and to avoid interference when in dense environments like cities.
The goal, it seems, is to deploy blisteringly fast wireless internet to areas where other solutions — like fiber — aren’t economically feasible.
Google Fiber has also considered using millimeter-wave Wi-Fi technology for its own purposes. Fiber infrastructure is massively expensive, so Google is exploring gigabit Wi-Fi to fill in the gaps in the so-called “last mile,” The Wall Street Journal reported in 2016.
Facebook already provides free access to basic internet services through its Free Basicsplatform. The service has been offered to over a billion people across Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Free Basics isn’t full internet access, however. It supports a limited span of websites and web services (including, unsurprisingly, Facebook itself). On that note, it’s not clear whether Facebook is planning on using Terragraph technology to offer a similar limited-access platform, or if it will deploy full internet service like Google Fiber.
Either way, Qualcomm and Facebook expect to begin trials of the technology by mid-2019.