Facebook said in an email to SocialTimes that a test at its Southern California lab successfully beamed data at a rate of nearly 20 gigabits per second from a mountaintop in Malibu to a rooftop in Woodland Hills, 13 kilometers (eight miles) away.
The social network added that it used just 105 watts of power, roughly equivalent to what a single light bulb consumes, to provide enough data to stream nearly 1,000 ultra-high-definition videos simultaneously.
The next step? Facebook said it will start testing a link between the air and the ground using a modified Cessna airplane, with the ultimate goal of mounting the system on its Aquila solar-powered aircraft.
Abhishek Tiwari, who works on radio frequency and MMW products for Facebook Connectivity Lab, said in a blog post last week:
In recent years, the MMW portion of the radio frequency spectrum has emerged as a viable option for supporting such high-capacity links, and there have been many advances in MMW component technology. Still, many technical and environmental challenges remain at the system level. A group of Connectivity Lab researchers and engineers are working to address them with next-generation MMW point-to-point links.
The technology we tested is applicable to a number of Connectivity Lab’s solutions. For example, it could be used as a terrestrial backhaul network to support access solutions like OpenCellular, or as a reliable backup to free space optical solutions such as the laser communications gimbal and optical detector in case of fog and clouds. Ultimately, the point-to-point MMW radio link is expected to serve as the connection between a ground station and Aquila, our solar powered UAV. However, we still have several connectivity and technical challenges to resolve before the technology is fully ready for deployment.
The team is currently flight-testing its first-generation air-to-ground bidirectional link capable of 20 gbps in each direction. The aerial payload is mounted on a Cessna aircraft and is being flown at altitudes up to 20,000 feet.
The next-generation air-to-ground communication system capable of supporting 40 gbps each on uplink and downlink between an aircraft and a ground station will be flight-tested in early 2017. We will continue to push the limits of wireless capacity over long ranges while staying within the tough size, weight and power constraints of Aquila communication payloads.
Readers: What are your thoughts on the results of Facebook Connectivity Lab’s recent test?