Facebook scrapped plans to build a multi-million dollar satellite, intended to provide internet access to underserved areas.
According to an article in The Information, the Facebook satellite would have been geostationary and would have supplied internet access to dozens of countries. The satellite was meant for use on continents such as Africa by Efrati’s source, a person who has direct knowledge of the project.
However, the excessively high cost of designing and manufacturing the satellite lead to the abandonment of the plans. The cost, according to conflicting reports are anywhere from US$500m to US$1bn.
With such a heavy price tag, it is no surprise that Facebook has lost interest in satellite internet, according to media reports. Facebook is dropping its plans for a geo-stationary satellite over concerns that it will not get return on its investments, according to reports. However, the project has not been definitively ended. There are possibilities that Facebook may lease space on another satellite or still partner with another project.
Facebook’s withdrawal from the satellite plans follows Google’s. Both companies have seen satellites and other airborne hardware as the future of internet access in upcoming markets.
According to Quartz, Google, which hired satellite entrepreneur, Greg Wyler to plan a satellite constellation in 2014, withdrew out of that plan earlier this year.
Today, satellite-internet services are not only quite expensive but also offer slow data speeds. However, Wyler and other satellite entrepreneurs believe that constellations consisting of many small satellites can provide faster service, as they are nearer to earth than the typical communication satellites that fly at high altitudes to make the best use of coverage.
Also, they would cost less, as tiny satellites are generally less costly. The technical challenges, however, which involves flying and operating a full-fledged constellation of them may still prove too hard to overcome.
There are still some businesses that dream of creating satellite internet in spite of this, as the promising rewards for success could be quite high.
Wyler, the entrepreneur who left Google, with the support from Qualcomm and Virgin Galactic has founded a new satellite-internet concern. It is developing a constellation of small communications satellites of its own, said Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
For long, Facebook has been an recommending for global internet access, launching Internet.org in 2013. While Internet.org has come under the scanner in recent times for failing to comply with the ideals of net neutrality, the initiative remains in the works.
It looks like as though the satellite plans were not related to Internet.org, according to Efrati’s source.
If some day any company through some combination of very powerful mini-satellites and cheaper rocket launches cracks the code of satellite internet first, then Facebook and Google would not hopefully remain far behind in hogging the limelight.