Look Out Elon! Here Comes Zuck: Facebook Working on Satellite Internet Program

Mark Zuckerberg (Credit: Anthony Quintano)

Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook is working on a satellite Internet project designed to provide broadband access around the globe, Wired reports.

The emails show that the social network wants to launch Athena, its very own internet satellite, in early 2019. The new device is designed to “efficiently provide broadband access to unserved and underserved areas throughout the world,” according to an application the social network appears to have filed with the FCC under the name PointView Tech LLC.

With the filing, Facebook joins Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Softbank-backed OneWeb, two well-funded organizations working on similar projects. In fact, SpaceX launched the first two of what it hopes will be thousands of its Starlink satellites just this past February.

The emails, which date back to July 2016, and subsequent confirmation from Facebook, confirm a story published in May by IEEE Spectrum, which used public records to speculate that Facebook had started a satellite internet project.

The new emails detail meetings between FCC officials and lawyers from a firm Facebook appears to have hired, which specializes in representing clients before government agencies. In one exchange from 2016, a lawyer from the firm requests to meet with FCC officials in the Office of Engineering & Technology and the International Bureau Satellite Division to discuss applying for an experimental license to construct and operate a “small LEO [low Earth orbit] satellite system with a limited duration mission.” The emails indicate that Facebook also set up subsequent meetings with the FCC in June and December of 2017.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, it looks like it is the new fad. The problem is that over 90% of human activity takes place on about 5% of the Earth’s surface. Less than .6 of 1 percent is urban area including towns. So most of the time the system is unused and unneeded.

  • Michael Halpern

    The thing is, while Zuckerberg probably has the money, he hasn’t been working on this for several years like Oneweb or the expertise in manufacturing and spacecraft as SpaceX has access to. And you need hundreds in a LEO constellation in order to be really useful

  • Vladislaw

    Will all these just be expansions of a single internet or are these people wanting to start their own independent networks? Competing internets?

  • Vladislaw
  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, more evidence it has become the fad of the day.

  • Zed_WEASEL

    Zuckerberg don’t appears to have the know how & in house capability to set up a large comsat constellation or the manufacturing base to supply the comsat constellation components. Never mind the ground infrastructure needed to support and maintain a large comsat constellation.

  • voronwae

    “Chemicals and Energy”? “Industrials”? I’m not sure I can easily see what those topics describe. Even “Telecom” is pretty vague, considering that “telecom” might describe land lines, cable internet, cellular, satellite internet, GPS communications, television…several of which creep into the “Software and Internet” area. Does “Chemicals and Energy” encompass graphene and nanotube research, or does some of that get placed under “Computing and Electronics” and some under “Industrials”? I’m not sure there’s anything to be learned from this chart, all by itself.

  • Kenneth_Brown

    I agree and also, the vast majority of people that don’t have access to the internet also don’t have access to electricity on a regular basis or a steady supply of food. I have a hard time seeing how a business model that intends to get those people on FB or the internet in general is going to turn a profit. There are places in the world where a good internet connection that isn’t so expensive would be handy, but those places are often in areas that are centered on concentrations of raw materials and if the companies that run those camps wanted to provide everybody with high speed internet, they could certainly afford it.