As per WIRED, the popular social networking site Facebook is set to launch Athena, its internet satellite, in early 2019. This is all part of the larger goal of Facebook of connecting billions of people who are offline.
The report claims that Facebook has apparently filed with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the name PointView Tech LLC and the project is designed to “efficiently provide broadband access to unserved and underserved areas throughout the world”.
Echoing the footsteps of Elon Musk’s Space X and Softbank-backed OneWeb, Facebook joins the bandwagon of the global players that refocused on increasing Internet accessibility through satellites in low Earth orbit.
While we have nothing to share about specific projects at this time, we believe satellite technology will be an important enabler of the next generation of broadband infrastructure, making it possible to bring broadband connectivity to rural regions where internet connectivity is lacking or non-existent. – Facebook spokesperson regarding the Athena project
However, to put into perspective a little hitch faced by Facebook till now, the former two similar projects aimed at bringing billions of underserved people around the world have not quite hit the bull’s eye, therefore making it all the more important to Athena to break the jinx and be an outright success story.
Recently in June, Facebook had announced its decision to drop the plan of developing Aquila (high-flying solar-powered drones) that was made for providing internet to around 4 billion underserved people in remote and therefore technologically backward areas of the world.
As articulated by Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, Aquila’s mission was to build a high altitude platform station (HAPS) system which was meant to connect those people around the globe who were deprived of the internet. As per the plan, the Aquile project was kickstarted in 2014 following which it successfully completed the second full-scale test flight in 2017. However, eventually, the project did not turn out to be as expected and had to be abandoned.
Also back in 2017, Facebook had to do away with a small helicopter drone project that could replace cellular services in emergency situations for some time.
Even though it’s just a start for Facebook in the domain of the still new and emerging satellite technology, it is still an impressive satellite internet project to begin its journey towards building an entire network of satellites in the future, and it is already good to go with a good head-start.