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Facebook millimeter wave trials hit 18-36Gbps speeds

By Grahame Lynch

Facebook has given its strongest indication yet that its research efforts to boost the local loop are paying dividends. At its F8 Developers Conference in California, Yael Maguire, head of the company’s Connectivity Lab, described several trial results which suggested its millimetre-wave trials were beginning to bear fruit.

“Our idea is to extend fibre using wireless instead of more fibre, to build faster networks at a lower cost. It’s a simple concept, but deploying this at scale in a city has never been done before — until now,” said Maguire. “Facebook has worked with the city of San Jose to launch a first-of-its-kind at-scale deployment to test our system’s capabilities in the city’s downtown corridor.”

“Earlier this month, our team set three new records in wireless data transfer— demonstrating a record point-to-point data rate of 36Gbps over 13km with mmWave technology, and 80Gbps between those same points using our optical cross-link technology,” he continued. “That’s up to 4,000 ultra-high-definition videos simultaneously.

We also used the technology to demonstrate 16Gbps simultaneously in each direction from a location on the ground to a circling Cessna aircraft over 7km away.”

Facebook said it understood that communications in the 60GHz band were subject to line of sight issues. “To fix this, we leveraged Facebook’s software and networking expertise to create software that routes around obstructions in a split second, so the end user won’t notice there was a lapse in connection. We reduce the failover rate to something so small, it’s a blip – unnoticeable on human time scales,” Maguire said.

Facebook says it knew that there was “no silver bullet for connecting the world; no single technology will get the job done. Rather than look for a one-size-fits-all solution, we are investing in a building block strategy – designing different technologies for specific use cases which are then used together with partners to create flexible and extensible networks.”

Maguire expounded on one of these new platforms. “For situations where a faster deployment is needed – such as a natural disaster, when infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed but some fibre lines still work – we’ve developed what we call Tethertenna. It’s a small helicopter tethered to a fibre line and power—essentially, insta-infrastructure,” he explained.

“If the fibre line is still good to a certain point, we can make a virtual tower by flying a Tether-tenna a few hundred feet from the ground. When completed, this technology  will be able to be deployed immediately and operate for months at a time to bring back connectivity in case of an emergency — ensuring the local community can stay connected while the in-ground connectivity is under repair.”

(This article first appeared in

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