Facebook Creates Own Robot and Fiber Optic Cable To Improve Internet Access

The hope is to improve internet infrastructure through the robot that swiftly moves along power lines and deploys long lines of fiber-optic cable.
Fabienne Lang
Facebook's robot on the fiber optic cableFacebook

Short of sending more satellites into Space in order to improve internet connectivity around the world, just like SpaceX's Starlink mission has done, Facebook is taking another tactical angle to the matter. 

Facebook announced on Monday that it has developed a robot that travels along existing power lines and deploys a Facebook-made fiber-optic cable along its way. 

The company believes that this will be a more affordable method to lay down internet cables, particularly in developing countries. 


Increased internet access

Facebook's ultimate goal is to increase internet access around the globe. That said, it isn't Facebook that will be providing the internet, it will instead be licensing the technology to other companies. These will then be able to provide services with ISPs.

The first to join the lineup alongside Facebook is NetEquity Networks. Working together, the two companies are looking to deploy Facebook's robot next year. 

Facebook Creates Own Robot and Fiber Optic Cable To Improve Internet Access
The left cable is a standard fiber optic cable, and the one on the right is Facebook's, Source: Facebook

In order to create the fiber-optic cables, Facebook worked with Wayne Kachmar, also known as "veteran cable designer." ULC Robotics helped Facebook build its robots. 

ULC Robotics' research and development project manager, Jon Kuriloff, stated that "There are really two central innovations. The first is that there’s an innovative fiber optic cable design that’s resistant to damage."

"The other central innovation is the robotics system, which will allow the fiber optic cable to be transported along medium voltage distribution lines. Marrying those two technologies enables you to run fiber in a way that couldn’t be done previously."

The robot works in a pretty neat way. It rotates the spool around the electrical cables, and if it encounters any obstacles along its path it simply hoists itself above it and continues on its merry way. 

Facebook Creates Own Robot and Fiber Optic Cable To Improve Internet Access
The robot on the power cable, Source: Facebook

The team ensured to focus on using pre-existing electrical grid systems, as these were abundant, even in rural areas. This avoids having to build any of their own infrastructures or having to dig underground to lay down their own cables there. 

Facebook Creates Own Robot and Fiber Optic Cable To Improve Internet Access
Illustration of the robot on the power cable, Source: Facebook

More tests still need to be carried out, for instance, what the human operating costs would be, but it's looking likely these robots will launch in 2021. 


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