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Facebook has reportedly ditched plan for $1 billion Internet satellite

Facebook’s plan to build an Internet satellite to connect remote parts of the planet have been ditched, according to a report from The Information. An unnamed insider with knowledge of the development told the news site the cost of the project, which could have gone as high as $1 billion, and concerns it might not be able to recover costs, had led to the decision.

Facebook’s plan had been to use the satellite to provide free or cheap Internet access to locations in the developing world, a move that would of course have exposed its social networking service to many more users, thereby helping it to expand its business even further.

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Working with a number of mobile-related companies – Samsung and Qualcomm among them – Facebook in 2013 launched Internet.org to help see the ambitious project through. While satellites now look to be out of the equation, the project’s goal could still be attained via Wi-Fi drones that the group is developing.

The solar-powered flying machines, which would be kept at an altitude of between 60,000 and 90,000 feet, could be as large as a Boeing 747 aircraft, but as light as “four of the tires of a Prius,” according to Facebook’s Yael Maguire, who’s heavily involved in the project.

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Facebook’s talk of using satellite technology for Internet connectivity appeared to persuade other tech firms and entrepreneurs to take an interest in the sector.

Google, for example, is exploring the possibility of developing the technology, although it currently seems more intent on pushing ahead with its plan to use high-altitude balloons for the same purpose. More recently, Virgin boss Richard Branson announced he was joining forces with a number of technology firms in a bid to bring Internet connectivity to various parts of the world via an array of satellites.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk has also revealed plans for a similar space-based plan involving a network of hundreds of small satellites. The resulting service, which is unlikely to launch for at least five years, could offer Internet speeds that “rival fiber optic cables on land,” according to Bloomberg.