Social giant Facebook will be working together with mobile network expert Qualcomm to create a high-speed network on the 60GHz spectrum band in select urban areas, the chipmaker said Monday. The pair will be utilizing Terragraph, a technology developed by Facebook that uses otherwise underutilized spectrum in the 60GHz band in conjunction with a large number of fixed nodes that cover a very small area each. These nodes are stitched together to create a far-reaching urban network that runs at multi-gigabit speeds and mostly matches wired networks in stability, all while being cheaper, easier, and faster to roll out than comparable options.
Most spectrum in the 60GHz range is unlicensed right now, and Qualcomm and Facebook are basing their system on that fact. Essentially, they're going to use 802.11ay pre-commercial equipment from Qualcomm, using it to build out a network as a sort of test bed before the equipment gets into the hands of consumers and businesses. These will be used in conjunction with WiGig components that are cheap and easy to find in order to cheaply and easily propagate a full-spectrum 60GHz network spread across a wide area. This will allow networking entities like IoT companies and internet service providers to utilize a wide-range mmWave network that resembles the small cell 5G deployment that most wireless companies are planning, but on a much larger scale and using different spectrum.
The two companies are expected to start trials of the new networks in 2019 but have yet to announce exactly where they plan to concentrate their experimental deployment. Representatives from both companies are saying that Facebook and Qualcomm providing and managing consumer access isn't the goal here. Instead, the companies are looking to increase urban broadband penetration and thus competition, and also ease new 802.11ay and 802.11ad solutions into the market. These planned networks will also make it easier for network providers to tackle what's called "last-mile" delivery, managing the connection between the nearest tower or node and end users who will be browsing, gaming, working, and streaming content via the said network. These goals also have the potential to make serious money for Facebook and Qualcomm at little upfront cost and with extremely low risk, while saving operators money they would have otherwise had to invest in building their own last-mile solutions.