Facebook’s secret satellite no longer secret, no longer happening

9 Jun 2015

Facebook has reportedly scrapped plans to build a multi-million dollar satellite, intended to provide internet access to under-served areas.

According to an article by Amir Efrati in The Information, the satellite would have been geostationary and would have provided internet access to dozens of countries. Efrati’s source, a person with direct knowledge of the project, said that the satellite was intended for use on continents such as Africa.

However, the plans were abandoned due to the prohibitive cost of designing and manufacturing the satellite. Conflicting reports place that cost anywhere from US$500m to US$1bn.

With a price tag like that, it’s easy to see why Facebook might pull back. The project, however, hasn’t been definitively ended – the possibility remains that the social media giant may still partner with another project, or lease space on another satellite.

Facebook’s retreat from the satellite plans follows Google’s. Both companies have seen satellites and other airborne hardware as the future of internet access in emerging markets.

Facebook has long been an advocate for global internet access, launching Internet.org in 2013. While Internet.org has come under fire recently for violating the ideals of net neutrality, the initiative remains in the works.

According to Efrati’s source, it appears as though the satellite plans were unrelated to Internet.org.

Satellite image, via Shutterstock

Kirsty Tobin was careers editor at Silicon Republic