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Facebook tests lasers that shoot high-speed internet through the sky

The lasers can be mounted on planes and fire wireless internet from the heavens.

Facebook used this laser ground station in its tests.
SPIE Digital Library

How can Facebook expand past its 2.2 billion monthly active users? Perhaps by bringing the internet to more places.

Facebook has tested one method that uses plane-mounted lasers that can shoot a high-speed internet connection through the sky, according to a February 2018 paper seen by Business Insider. With the lasers, the company was able to create a wireless link between the plane and a ground station 9 km (5.6 miles) away. Facebook confirmed these details to CNET.

Although experimental, this shows one way to send high-speed internet to remote locations. How fast is this internet? According to Facebook, it was able to create a 10-gigabit-per-second bidirectional optical link.

But Facebook can make the connection even faster with different tech. In a blog post on Wednesday, Facebook said it was able to send 40Gbps simultaneously in each direction from a location on the ground to an aircraft 7 km (4.3 miles) away. But this test uses millimeter-wave technology, not lasers.

This is part of Facebook's continued work on developing a fast wireless internet connection that can be shot through the sky or even space. Previously, Facebook's Aquila project used a Facebook-made high-altitude drone to beam internet to remote places. The social network recently dropped the Aquila project but is still focusing on creating faster internet connections.

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