By Steph Yin
The internet is often called the “World Wide Web,” but it’s not actually accessible to residents of a large portion of the world. Today, four billion people are offline, and 1.6 billion of them live in sparsely populated areas around the world.
In recent years, a race to solve that problem has emerged among big tech companies like Google, SpaceX and Facebook. Now, Facebook has published research on an unconventional solution: using light to wirelessly transmit internet signals. The work comes from a Facebook-led initiative called Internet.org, which, according to the initiative’s website, has so far brought internet access to more than 25 million people.
Most internet signals today are transmitted at high rates through wired optical fiber networks — which require expensive infrastructure — or at lower rates through wireless radio frequencies, which are limited in bandwidth, subject to regulations and vulnerable to interception.
In a paper published Tuesday in Optica, researchers from Internet.org’s Connectivity Lab have outlined a new type of light detector that can be used for free-space optical communication, a communication technique that uses light to send data wirelessly.
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