Networking

How Facebook wants to redefine urban wireless connectivity with Terragraph

At its F8 developer conference, Facebook explained how it would use its Terragraph wireless system and computer vision software to extend the capabilities of fiber in cities.

mapsfacebook.jpg

One of the maps created by Facebook's computer vision.

Image: Facebook

On Wednesday, at its annual F8 developer conference in San Jose, CA, Facebook unveiled its plan to make it easier and faster to build wireless networks in cities using its Terragraph wireless connectivity system. If successful, it could lead to fewer dead zones and more capacity, the company announced in a post.

Terragraph is one of two new terrestrial connectivity systems that Facebook introduced on April 13, 2016, alongside Project ARIES. Terragraph is a 60 GHz, multi-node system, which uses phase array antennae to be "able to route and steer around interference typically found in dense urban environments, such as tall buildings or internet congestion due to high user traffic," the post announcing the project said.

Using Terragraph, Facebook hopes to extend the capabilities of existing fiber networks wirelessly. By doing so, they hope to be able to build faster networks at a lower cost, the post said.

SEE: Job description: Wireless network engineer (Tech Pro Research)

Facebook also announced that it has officially partnered with the city of San Jose to begin rolling out its new deployment of Terragraph in the downtown area of the city. Using computer vision technology, the company was able to map out where the best possible locations for millimeter-wave radios would be, and how clear the line of sight was, the post said.

The issue of building a network like this in an urban area is that cities are, by nature, dynamic. Construction brings cranes and other obstructions, while new buildings and billboards go up all the time. Using Terragraph's ability to steer the signal, the post said, Facebook can re-route networks around the obstruction.

Specifically, Facebook relies on its Open/R modular routing platform to move the signal. And the failover rate is so small that it is almost undetectable by human users, the post said.

At F8, Facebook also detailed some updates to its solar powered unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) Aquila. The drone had its first test flight last year where it achieved a data rate of nearly 20 Gbps over 13 km. In early April, the team was able to hit a data rate of 36 Gbps over 13 km.

The Aquila project is one of many similar projects from tech giants hoping to improve connectivity in rural areas. Tesla, for example, is planning to launch some 4,425 satellites into space to provide internet around the world.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Facebook is using its Terragraph wireless system and computer vision software to build out steerable wireless systems in urban areas.
  2. If successful, the technology could make it easier and faster to build out high-speed networks.
  3. Facebook also detailed new benchmarks for its Wi-Fi providing Aquila drone, which was able to achieve a data rate of 36 Gbps over 13 km.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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