Facebook Unveils Plans for Gigabit Wireless

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Facebook is joining a growing list of companies that hope to use emerging millimeter wave technology to provide an additional layer of broadband competition. Speaking this week ath the company’s F8 developers conference, Facebook unveiled its new “Terragraph” system, which the company dubs a “multi-node wireless system focused on bringing high-speed internet connectivity to dense urban areas.” According to Facebook Engineering VP Jay Parikh, the company is currently being tested at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters. These trials will expand into a real-world deployment in San Jose, California later on this year.

The company’s website says that Terragraph is a 60 GHz, multi-node wireless system focused on bringing high-speed internet connectivity to dense urban areas.
Facebook Terragraph
“Although 60 GHz has traditionally been avoided due to its high absorption of oxygen and water, countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, China, South Korea, Japan, and others saw the benefit of making this part of the spectrum also known as V-band unlicensed, similar to the Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands,” Facebook says.

The company notes that up to 7 GHz of bandwidth is available in the 60 GHz band, adding that “forward-thinking countries like the United States are seeking input to expand this to a total of 14 GHz.”

Facebook’s certainly not alone in its interest in millimeter wave technology. Back in January Aereo-founder Chaitanya Kanojia launched Starry, a new service that uses “millimeter active phased array technology” and hundreds of scattered rooftop nodes throughout each city to expand broadband access. Google has also been testing millimeter wave technology in California for some time.

Facebook says the company has seen total throughput speeds as high as 2.1 Gbps for a single distribution node during early tests. From the sound of things, unlike Google or Starry, Facebook intends to work with municipalities and other companies to deploy the technology, instead of deploying it directly itself.

Alongside Terragraph Facebook also unveiled something it’s calling “Project Aries,” a new 96-antenna base station designed to make “incredibly efficient usage of spectrum and energy,” supporting 24 streams simultaneously over the same radio spectrum.

There’s more detail about Facebook’s plans here, and you can find the city of San Jose’s announcement here (pdf).

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