High-quality internet access opens new opportunities to make yourself heard, connect with the people and communities you care about, and build new businesses. It’s also good for industries and businesses of all kinds, including Facebook. The latest edition of our Inclusive Internet Index shows progress on bringing broadband access to more people, but the rate of growth in household connectivity has been slowing. While mobile broadband data has become more affordable on average, it’s still expensive for many in low-income countries. Addressing these remaining barriers to global connectivity is a big job—one that requires many people working together.
Facebook Connectivity, along with our community of partners, aims to break down these barriers by developing new technologies, business models, and programs that reduce the cost of providing high-quality internet. We are focused on working with industry partners to make data-driven choices about where to deploy capacity, how to optimize network designs and deployments, how to reduce costs (including operational and capital expenses), and how to drive efficiency through innovation.
To that end, we are excited to share updates on Facebook Connectivity and to celebrate our partners. We’re working on several new initiatives around Terragraph, Magma, satellite-based Wi-Fi solutions, shared fiber builds, and more. And while we won’t all be together at MWC Barcelona this year, we are summarizing our recent work here and will share all of the content we had originally planned on our Facebook Connectivity website on February 28.
Expanding the wireless ecosystem with Terragraph
Around the world, the demand for more internet-enabled devices and content like streaming videos and VR experiences is straining network infrastructure. We designed Terragraph, a gigabit wireless technology, to deliver fiber-like speeds over the air in areas where trenching new fiber cables may be difficult or cost-prohibitive. In collaboration with our partners, we’re using Terragraph to meet this growing need for reliable, high-speed internet access. Today, we’re excited to announce several innovative new collaborations with Terragraph to bring affordable, high-speed broadband connectivity to underconnected urban and suburban, and rural communities around the world.
Paving the way for 1 Gbps fixed wireless home internet, Common Networks has combined advanced networking software features from Terragraph with its Wireless Graph Network technology and the Qualcomm 60 GHz Wi-Fi chipset to launch the first commercial deployment of wireless rooftop hardware to people’s homes. Cambium Networks is incorporating Terragraph mesh networking into its 60 GHz gigabit wireless radios to provide last-mile access to subscriber homes, enterprises and multi dwelling buildings. In Puerto Rico, AeroNet is launching Terragraph pilot programs to provide Old San Juan with reliable and affordable high-speed broadband. In Malaysia, YTL Communications is piloting Terragraph to improve speeds and provide free public Wi-Fi at a city level for local residents, businesses and tourists in George Town, a UNESCO heritage city.
Launching Evenstar to accelerate OpenRAN adoption
As a founding member of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), we work closely with the TIP community to improve infrastructure for global networks. Together with partners including Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, MTI, and AceAxis, we are excited to launch Evenstar remote radio units (RRU). The Evenstar program will focus on building general-purpose radio access network (RAN) reference designs for 4G/5G networks in the Open RAN ecosystem that are aligned with 3GPP and O-RAN specifications. By decoupling the RRU hardware, distribution unit, and control unit software, which are traditionally sold as a package, mobile network operators the ability to select best-of-breed components and the flexibility to deploy solutions from an increasing number of technology partners. We hope to contribute the proposed solution to the TIP OpenRAN project group to accelerate adoption.
Deploying Magma open-source software to enable new business models
Magma, our open-source software platform, enables network operators to have an open, flexible, and extensible mobile core network. We open-sourced the code for Magma at MWC 2019 and the project has gained tremendous traction in the industry—it is quickly becoming the packet core of choice for operators and system integrators around the globe. iConecta, in partnership with the system integrator Arcangelli, has selected Magma to provide fixed wireless access; Mirantis is using Magma to enable mobile network operators to offload cellular data at the network edge; and several operators are also exploring Magma for mobile broadband offerings. In addition, we’ve successfully completed interoperability tests with the eNodeBs of leading RAN vendors, including Baicells Technologies and VNL, while adding several important features such as zero-touch provisioning and hitless upgrades. We’ll continue enhancing the feature set as we work with our partners to roll out Magma in more regions.
Strengthening connectivity in rural communities with satellite operators and network as a service
Approximately 1.4 billion people live in rural areas or on the outskirts of cities that remain unconnected or underconnected due to distance and other challenges. We’ve been helping the industry develop lower-cost approaches to connecting people in these communities.
We’re making great strides with satellite operators to deliver Wi-Fi to remote areas. We’ve partnered with Viasat, which is using Facebook Connectivity solutions alongside their Community Wi-Fi hotspot service in Mexico. In addition, Hughes Network Systems and Hispasat are providing commercial internet access powered by Facebook Connectivity solutions including our Express Wi-Fi platform in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, and are on track to expand in other countries. In addition, we’ve formed new satellite partnerships with YahClick and Thaicom.
We’re also excited about progress with network as a service (NaaS), which enables mobile network operators to extend their service into rural areas without investing capex and instead using open, shared cellular infrastructure owned and operated by a third party. Internet para Todos Peru (IpT) is the first-ever nationwide, rural NaaS provider and was created in partnership with Facebook, Telefonica, IDB Invest and CAF (Development Bank of Latin America). Since its launch in mid-2019, IpT has covered approximately 1.5 million rural Peruvians with 4G service, marking 25% of the journey toward providing 6 million people with better connectivity options.
To expand the NaaS model, we’re working with major service providers and partners in Brazil on a proof of concept, with the goal of extending mobile broadband to the more than 20 million Brazilians currently living in rural areas with limited or no 4G coverage. The initiative will provide new business opportunities to the thriving industry of regional ISPs, which can leverage their local presence and existing resources to operate LTE networks more efficiently. Trials are planned for late 2020, with scale deployments targeted for 2021.
Extending fiber network deployments to new regions
With more than a thousand times the bandwidth of other communications technologies, optical fiber is ideal for delivering pervasive, high-capacity, low-cost networks. However, the high cost of deploying fiber networks has meant that an estimated 70% of the world’s population lives more than 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) from fiber infrastructure. Today, we’re proud to announce new fiber builds in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Indonesia, and expansion in Nigeria.
In partnership with Airtel and Vodacom, we completed the DRC’s first privately led long-haul fiber route, which runs from Muanda to Matadi. The project includes metro fiber in select cities and connects to the national electrical grid’s fiber network to Kinshasa. This new fiber helps stabilize international connectivity from DRC’s sole cable landing station in Muanda and delivers service across DRC’s western provinces. This is the first phase of Facebook Connectivity’s investments in the DRC as we look to help improve connectivity gaps across the country.
In Indonesia, Alita and Facebook are investing in more than 1,800 miles (3,000 kilometers) of metro fiber to connect more than 1,000 cell sites. This is our largest single terrestrial fiber investment in Asia to date, and when fully completed, this fiber will bring higher speed internet services to more than 10 million people across the islands of Bali, Java, Kalimantan, and Sulawesi.
We’ve also partnered with the Edo State Government, MainOne and Tizeti in Nigeria to increase access to online training for more than 2,000 local teachers through our Workplace for Good program. With this partnership, Edo State has also committed to connecting 100 new schools in the region, leveraging our fiber investments with MainOne and our Express Wi-Fi platform to bring new connectivity options to their surrounding communities and to ensure that more than 15,000 students and teachers have continued internet access. This announcement expands on the open-access fiber deployment in Edo and Ogun states that we announced last year.
To make open access fiber networks more pervasive, we’re working with a number of partners on a new technology solution to significantly reduce the cost of aerial fiber deployments. We’re excited to share more details in the coming year as we work toward the first deployment.
Increasing Wi-Fi connectivity with the Express Wi-Fi platform
With the Express Wi-Fi platform, service providers are able to provide fast, reliable Wi-Fi when and where people need it. We work with local entrepreneurs, mobile network operators and internet service providers to build, grow and monetize their Wi-Fi businesses in ways that are more sustainable and scalable. Today, our partners use the Express Wi-Fi platform to empower people around the world to connect to a faster, higher-quality and more affordable internet.
Adding to the progress we’ve made with satellite operators using the Express Wi-Fi platform to deliver Wi-Fi to remote areas, we’re pleased to also announce that BaliTower is launching Express Wi-Fi to expand connectivity in Indonesia. In addition, leading equipment manufacturers Cisco, Edgecore, IgniteNet, Inventum and Tanaza have joined our Express Wi-Fi Technology Partner Program with the goal of building Express Wi-Fi-compatible hardware and software to enable more people in more places to get online.
Bridging the digital divide and helping communities around the world enjoy the economic benefits of connectivity is at the root of our mission, and we’re encouraged by the feedback we’ve received thus far. In rural communities near Bahia, Brazil, for example, satellite partners have brought high-quality internet access to rural communities with fewer than 500 people. This new access has enabled ambulance drivers to connect more easily during emergencies, and a local catering business has told us the ability to take orders online has increased sales.
The mobile ecosystem is making great progress on shared efforts to extend global connectivity, but we know we have more work to do. We will continue working alongside leading operators and technology partners to advance global connectivity. We’re excited to work with others to accelerate progress on this important challenge. If you’re interested in learning more about how we’re working with our partners to accelerate global connectivity, visit connectivity.fb.com for more details.