Internet.org, the global partnership pioneered by Facebook and several other industry giants hoping to bring Internet access to everyone in the world, has shared some information about how it plans to deliver Internet access for the remaining two-thirds of the world: using a technology called Free Space Optics (FSO) and automated drones.
The current distribution of Internet access involve the construction of radio towers, which incurs a high amount of infrastructure costs. This naturally is not a feasible option for suburban and rural areas, and Internet.org is looking to change that. The partnership, which boasts some of the biggest names in the industry including Facebook, Samsung, Nokia, Ericsson, Qualcomm, Mediatek and Opera, is exploring highly futuristic ways of delivering Internet to the masses.
To date, the organization has roped in some serious talent, including aerospace experts from solar-powered drone expert Ascenta, and others from NASA. These experts are pioneering a new technology called Free Space Optics (FSO), a means of delivering data through the air (hence free space). FSO is capable of delivering data in a similar capacity to fibre optics.
Solar-powered drones circling around a particular area at 20km above sea level will then broadcast Internet signal to the ground via this new technology, and because these drones are flying significantly closer to the earth, the Internet signal broadcast will be stronger compared to satellites.The organization also plans to deploy FSO technology in rural areas or low population density locations via satellites, through a combination of low-orbit and geosynchronous satellite systems.
Of course, there are no confirmed timelines for these technologies to be deployed, as they are all still in the very early stages of the project. But, with a combination of experts and a considerable amount of funding for R&D, the promise of having the entire world connected to the Internet may just be one step closer to reality.