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Facebook is often ahead of the curve when it comes to anticipating the needs of its customers. While the company’s earliest competitor, Myspace, was little more than a chat room and blogging platform, Facebook became a social media empire by allowing users to guide the growth of the service.

In other words, Facebook is really good at listening to users and giving people what they want. In this day and age, many people simply want access. Although Facebook dominates the social media marketplace with nearly a billion and a half users, there are still plenty of remote areas where internet access is spotty at best, or simply isn’t available.

If Facebook wants to reach new customers, they need to find a way to help those without internet access get online. Google is tackling this problem with Project Loon and other companies are looking to expand access to the internet. With Facebook entering the fray, this could signal a more rapid conclusion. Their answer is light-based wireless communications.

What is Light-Based Wireless?

You can transmit data in a number of ways, one of which is via free-space optics. Few people are familiar with this method because businesses mostly utilize this option rather than the consumer public.

Free-space optics utilizes transmitting and receiving devices to send data via laser light signals (or alternately, radio frequencies). These signals must be sent without interference through the open air.  This is why you often see point to point wireless communications devices on top of tall buildings where there are fewer potential barriers to block the signal.

Businesses can also opt to route their wireless signals through satellites and sent back to different location on Earth, increasing the range of free-space optics communications.

Why is Light-Based Wireless Preferable?

Today most signals are sent via wires, either telephone or fiber-optic cables. While fiber-optic solutions are similar to free-space optics in that they rely on light signals to send data, they must bounce the light down special cables to transmit it from point A to point B.

This requires a huge amount of infrastructure.  Miles of cabling run from homes and businesses to communications hubs for routing across the globe. It’s no wonder why many remote areas do not have access to this technology.

What is Facebook Doing?

Facebook is designing hardware to improve free-space optics that increases transmission speed and accuracy. From there, they plan to use drones to relay information between satellites and ground receivers.  This strategy differs from Google since they are relying on weather balloons.  These innovations will increase the opportunity for remote areas to enjoy wireless communications, not to mention create new Facebook accounts.

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