Enabling better global connectivity through new partnerships and technologies at Mobile World Congress 2019

Through Facebook Connectivity, we are working to bring internet access and its benefits to everyone — giving more people a voice, strengthening communities, and creating new economic opportunities. To do this, we take a partner-first approach, working with network operators, equipment manufacturers, and other partners to introduce new initiatives and develop technologies that help bring people online to a faster internet.

The latest edition of our Inclusive Internet Index survey found that progress on closing the digital divide between low-income countries and the rest of the world stalled in 2018. Preventing an even greater digital divide and closing the remaining gaps in internet inclusion will require more collaboration. We remain committed to working closely with governments, the industry, academics, technologists, and civil society to help connect the 3.8 billion people who are not yet online and to improve the experiences of those who are already connected.

Today the Facebook Connectivity team is announcing new partnerships and discussing the momentum we are seeing on our existing efforts across a wide range of technology and program partnerships.

New partnerships and technologies to extend rural connectivity

To meet the unique challenges of connecting rural communities, we are collaborating with global operators to test new wireless technologies and business models that will help extend connectivity to areas that lack mobile broadband coverage.

In Latin America, Telefonica, Facebook, IDB Invest, and CAF (Development Bank of Latin America) are launching Internet para Todos (IpT) Peru, a project to form an open access wholesale rural mobile infrastructure operator. Any mobile operator in Peru will be able to use IpT’s 3G and 4G infrastructure to deliver retail mobile services. Telefonica del Peru is contributing its existing rural business to IpT Peru.  Facebook, IDB Invest, and CAF are investing in IpT Peru, with the goal of upgrading existing services and building new sites, enabling retail providers to deliver faster mobile Internet coverage. This partnership will help demonstrate that infrastructure projects based on open access principles, combined with new technologies and business models, can connect communities and serve as a model for other areas of the world.

We are also collaborating with Viasat to accelerate deployment of its satellite-enabled Community Wi-Fi hotspots, which are currently available to more than one million people across Mexico. Facebook is investing in the rollout and working with Viasat to help identify optimal deployment locations within Viasat’s satellite coverage area using open population maps. This is a model that we believe can help overcome global connectivity challenges, ultimately enabling more people in rural areas to have affordable, high-quality internet access.

Open source technology to enable new operator business models

We’re also announcing Magma, an open source software platform that will help simplify and extend mobile network deployments for operators. Magma includes a distributed mobile packet core supporting local breakout of the data plane, in addition to network automation and management software. Initial Magma launch partners are Telefonica, which is using Magma to help expand rural connectivity in Latin America, and BRCK, which is using Magma to pilot a new LTE network in Kenya.

New investments in fiber connectivity

We continue to work with partners on open-access transport networks, investing alongside providers to deploy and manage these networks. Today we’re announcing that MainOne is building an approximately 750 km open-access fiber deployment in Edo and Ogun States, Nigeria that will provide metro fiber connectivity reaching more than 1 million people. The project includes co-investment from Facebook and support from local state authorities. When completed this year, this new infrastructure will be used to connect mobile operators’ base stations and points of presence (POPs), reducing costs and, more importantly, increasing capacity.

This project builds on our learnings from 2017, when we completed fiber builds with VAST Networks in South Africa, and Airtel and BCS in Uganda. In South Africa, we supported the build and provisioning of fiber infrastructure for Wi-Fi hotspots in Diepsloot and Katlehong that currently serve 90,000 monthly users. While in Uganda, we built 770 km of fiber in the northwestern region, where our partners have continued to connect their base stations and POPs, expanding their coverage by 40 percent and enabling broadband coverage for more than half a million people.

Wi-Fi momentum with partners

We’re pleased to announce new partners launching Express Wi-Fi — including CellC in South Africa, Vodafone in Ghana, and Globe in the Philippines — to provide people with fast, affordable, and reliable access to the internet. With Express Wi-Fi, Facebook works with internet providers and mobile operators to help build and grow their Wi-Fi businesses in a sustainable and scalable way. We’re also announcing that Nokia, Aruba, and Edgecore Networks will join Arista, Cambium Networks, and Ruckus Networks as part of the Express Wi-Fi Technology Partner program to build hardware and software that powers Express Wi-Fi.

In addition, Cambium Networks, an existing Express Wi-Fi Technology Partner, is integrating Facebook’s self-organizing mesh access (SOMA) technology into their line of Wi-Fi products, enabling more operators to easily deploy Wi-Fi networks at scale. SOMA is a self-organizing, self-healing mesh Wi-Fi technology that allows for greater self-configuration, reliability, and performance and reduces the need for operators to spend time manually configuring their networks.

Growing the millimeter-wave gigabit wireless ecosystem with Terragraph

With Terragraph, Facebook is working to bring high-speed connectivity to urban and suburban communities by collaborating with ecosystem partners on mesh technology, new software tools, and standardized air interfaces (802.11ay). In Canton, Ohio (with Agile Networks and RADWIN) and Penang, Malaysia (with YTL Communications), Terragraph is enabling providers to deliver smart city services and faster fixed broadband. In Alameda, California (with Common Networks), Terragraph is delivering high-speed gigabit wireless connectivity at lower costs and faster deployment times than traditional fiber deployments. In Curitiba, Brazil (with Vivo), a trial has demonstrated that Terragraph technology can help deliver broadband to communities in Brazil. In partnership with Deutsche Telekom, we’re also announcing an upcoming pilot in Athens, Greece (with OTE).

We’re also excited to announce that the ecosystem of equipment makers supporting Terragraph is expanding. MikroTik and Cambium Networks, in addition to Common Networks, are building 60 GHz interoperable solutions with Terragraph, joining Nokia and RADWIN.

It’s encouraging to see the industry expand its efforts to extend global connectivity, but we know that together we have a lot more work to do. As a member of the Telecom Infra Project, we are working alongside many leading operators and technology partners to advance global connectivity. Today at Mobile World Congress 2019, TIP released a number of updates on the community’s efforts, including new project groups and progress toward developing new millimeter-wave, optical, and radio access technologies.

We’re excited to continue discussing ways to accelerate our impact with partners here in Barcelona at MWC 2019.

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