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Facebook, Telecom Infra launch new web connectivity projects worldwide

The schemes are aimed at improving Internet connections and bringing 3.8 billion people without access online.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Facebook and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) have announced a range of new projects designed to bring the remaining 3.8 billion people without Internet access online and boost web connectivity worldwide.

At Mobile World Congress currently underway in Barcelona, Spain, Facebook said the new initiatives, launched with the assistance of industry partners Deutsche Telekom, Magyar Telekom, Telenor, and others, will "upgrade existing networks for the future, build new networks in under-connected regions, and leverage new technologies, tools, and programs to bring more people online."

According to Facebook and the Economist Intelligence Unit's latest Inclusive Internet Index, Internet access has increased internationally by 8.3 percent over the past 12 months.

However, 3.8 billion people remain without access to services online.

Introducing this connectivity is at the heart of the social media giant's plans, Facebook VP of engineering Jay Parikh said in a blog post, and in order to push this concept into every corner of the earth, gaining the support of telecoms and broadband providers worldwide is key.

The new partnerships and schemes include the expansion of Terragraph, a millimeter-wave, multi-node wireless backhaul system designed to improve connectivity in dense, urban areas where broadband and mobile solutions often face high levels of congestion.

Terragraph will soon be deployed in two field trials by Deutsche Telekom and Hungary-based subsidiary Magyar Telekom. Europe and Budapest will act as testing zones, and Telenor has also signed up to deploy the technology across Kuala Lumpur.

Nokia is developing networks capable of supporting Terragraph and Facebook has also collaborated with Intel and Radwin on reference designs for 60 GHz solutions.

Tests are also ongoing to adapt street objects -- such as street lamps and stop signs -- to support city-wide networks.

"High-quality internet access enables richer communications and creates new opportunities to share knowledge and strengthen communities and economies," Parikh said.

Facebook has also announced new trials for OpenCellular, a low-power base station optimized for rural and traditionally underdeveloped regions.

Last year, Telefonica and Facebook teamed up to boost mobile coverage across the rural area of Peru. The companies have now completed the initial deployments of mobile networks which will serve "tens of thousands of Peruvians across the highlands and in the Amazonian rainforest."

The companies plan to expand the deployment across the country, and a new pairing with Orange may see the same networks appear across underserved areas of Africa, where Vodacom is already testing out OpenCellular-based networks.

The Highlands and rural areas of Scotland have also been targeted. Facebook, BT, Nokia, and Cavium are currently testing ways to bring together OpenCellular and Nokia's community-hosted networks.

"By working together as a community, we believe we can help operators build more robust and flexible networks necessary to meet new technology challenges and unlock new ways of connecting people," the executive said.

Launched two years ago by Facebook, TIP has grown to over 500 companies and acts as a partner and umbrella for a variety of networking projects.

See also: Apple changes Safari's cookie killer to fix Facebook's Like buttons

Over the last month, a number of new groups involving relay architecture, small cell solutions for low-power networks, and cell site gateway device developments have been formed.

In addition, TIP has announced a new community lab close to BT's Adastral Park campus in the United Kingdom. Participant startups of the TIP Ecosystem Acceleration Center (TEAC) are also now able to bid for a fresh funding as over €100 million in venture capital funding has been made available.

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