- Qualcomm announced Monday it would partner with Facebook on its Terragraph project to bring internet to dense urban areas that may have connection issues.
- Qualcomm will provide the hardware for the project, putting Terragraph technology in its chipsets. Trials will begin in mid-2019.
- The partnership will allow users to take advantage of unlicensed 60GHz spectrum, and Qualcomm is offering hardware enhancements including time-synchronized nodes and an antenna array to carry the signal past urban obstacles.
Facebook has highly publicized its plans to get involved in providing internet access, promising to bring it to the 3.8 billion people worldwide who don’t currently have service and improving it in areas where it’s subpar. That especially means cities; a concentration of users can choke the available spectrum, resulting in slower speeds and congestion in densely-packed urban areas. The Terragraph technology is meant to offer high-speed service at a fraction of the cost of fiber. The millimeter-wave, multi-node wireless backhaul system uses unlicensed spectrum, offering high-speed service without intrusive physical infrastructure.
As PC World points out, a previous attempt by Intel to replace wired infrastructure with a wireless network never took off after tests in the United Kingdom. The site also points out cities and tech companies are racing to spread 5G technology, which could ultimately outpace Facebook’s system before it even gets off the ground.
It’s unclear where Facebook and Qualcomm will start testing their technology, although San Jose has previously discussed being the pilot city for the Terragraph system.
Also unclear is how Facebook’s user privacy scandal will impact the launch. Politicians have been more interested of late in criticizing Facebook and threatening to crack down on the company rather than embracing it for a technology buildout.