Facebook engineers and physicists are exploring a new way to beam Internet access to underserved areas via lasers.
The team has detailed a light-based method that would provide Internet service to users on the ground from drones. Their report, published in the journal Optica and reported by TechCrunch, describes the technology as a useful method for “achieving data rates up to 2.1 Gbps at an eye-safe intensity.”
Mark Zuckerberg teased laser-based Internet service last year. Now, Facebook engineers say they’ve found a way to convert light into an Internet-ready current by allowing a portion of it to be collected by fiber. The fiber then transmits the data to a photodiode that can be interpreted by a device’s Internet receiver.
Suffice it to say that the technology is sophisticated. One of the issues with using drones and sending Internet signals down to devices is a “twinkling” effect that’s caused by turbulence in the air. Using light nearly eliminates that effect, the researchers say.
The team acknowledged that it needs far more testing before it can go live in any Facebook drones and that battery life could be an issue as they look ahead.
In the meantime, Facebook is focusing its efforts on Internet.org, or Free Basics, the organization tasked with providing Internet service to those in regions with little or no access.