Is another broadband option brewing? Facebook is building a satellite

SpaceX
GeoTel

Tired of the monopoly that most internet service providers (ISPs) have over their communities? How about a different kind of telecommunications giant instead?

In publicly disclosed FCC emails and in a confirmation to Wired, Facebook has revealed that it is looking to launch an in-house-developed satellite called Athena to offer broadband service to “unserved and underserved” areas. The low Earth orbit satellite is slated to launch sometime early next year, and would first have a “limited duration” mission. It seems likely that Facebook could then launch Athena again for a longer period of time if its initial trial proves to be successful.

“While we have nothing to share about specific projects at this time, we believe satellite technology will be an important enabler of the next generation of broadband infrastructure, making it possible to bring broadband connectivity to rural regions where internet connectivity is lacking or non-existent,” a Facebook spokesperson said about Athena.

IEEE Spectrum speculated as early as May of this year that Facebook was working on a satellite internet project, citing emails with the FCC — and it’s far from alone. Both SpaceX and OneWeb aim to beam internet down via satellite to underserved communities; SpaceX launched the first two of a planned large fleet of Starlink satellites for this purpose in February, and received FCC approval for the plan in March.

For the time being, Facebook’s project is nowhere near as ambitious. This first satellite seems more of a trial than anything else, as internet from low-Earth orbit would necessitate a bevy of satellites (a la Starlink) for real coverage.

That said, it’s still interesting to see what Facebook plans, especially considering that its previous attempts at these sorts of services didn’t work well. Earlier this year, the company decided to abandon efforts to build its own internet drone after four years of development. We’ll see how well this latest project fares.

Mobile

Will the upcoming BlackBerry Key2 LE have a lower price to match its low-end specs?

BlackBerry has already teased that it will release two new keyboard phones this year, and we may be about to get the second. Leaks are hinting the phone will be called the BlackBerry Key2 LE. Here's what we know about the Key2 LE.
Home Theater

Dish Network or DirecTV: Which is the better choice for you?

So, you’ve chosen to go with a satellite television provider. Check out our quick rundown of what both Dish Network and DirecTV offer in terms of content, hardware, and pricing, and why you might choose them over streaming services.
Movies & TV

Premium network, premium content: The best movies on HBO right now

HBO always has a solid selection of feature-length films on tap, but the offerings rotate fairly regularly, and browsing fatigue can set in given the sheer volume of the catalog. Here are our current favorites.
Emerging Tech

Airbus Zephyr solar aircraft breaks record for longest flight

A solar-powered Airbus aircraft has broken the record for the longest continuous flight. The Zephyr S stayed aloft for nearly 26 days, taking the aircraft a step closer to becoming a viable alternative to satellite technology.
Computing

The Facebook dating service will be free of charge and free of ads

Facebook is getting into the dating game. While the feature was one of the surprises from this year's F8, new details suggest what the feature may entail, including a few screenshots from a computer programmer.
Social Media

Three million people quit Snapchat after the redesign

After a million users signed petitions to get the old Snapchat back, the network's user count is showing the early results of the changes with a three-million-user drop in daily active users.
Features

The numbers don’t lie: Facebook is faltering. So what will eventually replace it?

Facebook is faltering, and the data prove it. User growth is slowing, employee outlooks are dipping, and young people are looking elsewhere. But for Facebook to fail, an alternative must arise. Who will it be?
Social Media

Facebook wants to help you find a mentor with its latest Groups feature

Facebook is designed for connecting to other people -- so why not mentors? Today, Facebook launched a program inside Groups that allows for two users to go through a mentorship program together.
Social Media

Facebook’s less cluttered friend list feeds are no more

Facebook friend feeds created a more curated news feed -- but not anymore. Facebook discontinued the feature, saying it wasn't widely used. The move will help the network focus on improving the news feed, the company says.
Photography

Starting a vlog? Here are the best cameras to buy

Any camera that shoots video can be used to vlog, but a few models stand out from the crowd thanks to superior image quality, ergonomics, and usability.
Photography

For Monaris, it’s a photography career launched on an iPhone and Instagram

On Instagram, she's known just as Monaris. But street photographer Paola Franqui has built a following largely with an iPhone and a smile. We sat down with her to talk photography, style, and Instagram, of course.
Mobile

Marco? Polo! Let's explore the app known as the 'video walkie-talkie'

Marco Polo has been dubbed the "video walkie-talkie," but how does the video messaging app stack up against competitors like Snapchat and Instagram? From unique filters to personalized video messages, we explore the Marco Polo app.
Social Media

Kids can now initiate a friend request on Messenger Kids by using a password

Facebook's messaging app for the under-13 crowd required parents, not kids, to initiate the process of adding a friend. Now kids can start the process by using a unique passphrase -- a feature that still requires parental approval.
Photography

The Nixplay Iris might just make digital picture frames cool again

The digital picture frame's popularity has fizzled because of time-consuming updates and low quality -- but can a Wi-Fi connected frame change that? The Nixplay Iris is an 8-inch smart digital picture frame that wireless updates photos.