Facebook’s new robot will make internet service cheaper

Facebook developed a robot to install fibre cables on medium voltage power lines around the world. The aim is to make it cheaper for internet service providers to build out their networks using super fast and reliable fibre connections.

The installation of fibre is a pricey endeavour. Facebook said: “If the cost of installation goes down so too does the cost of service for the end user.”


The fibre installation robot named Bombyx, which is Latin for silkworm, crawls along power lines and weaves its streamlined fibre cables around the lines already in place.

“It dramatically lowers the cost of fibre deployment by using existing electrical infrastructure,” Facebook said.

The social networking giant plans to non-exclusively license the technology and will launch a pilot programme with partners next year. It will not build the robot but will count on partners to manufacture and sell it. Facebook plans to license its designs to other companies.


Karthik Yogeeswaran, a wireless systems engineer in Facebook’s connectivity group and the brains behind the new robot said, “Half the world’s population is not connected. About 80% of those people live under existing 3G or better networks but still are not online because they can’t afford it. We want to allow abundance so that more people can get more data.”

Facebook envisions the entire world being connected to the internet. It worked previously on programmes like internet beaming drones and apps that let users briefly browse text on any mobile website for free.

Facebook is not the only tech company working on fibre. Google have rolled out fibre but have struggled along the way. Facebook, like Google, benefits when more people are online and able to use its services — whether it is the core social network, Instagram or messaging service WhatsApp.


Facebook started looking at a more affordable way to deliver high speed internet through fibre optic cables three years ago. Yogeeswaran said the idea of using power lines to support the fibre cables came to him while he was traveling through rural Africa. Uganda was filled with medium voltage power lines that emit between 10,000 to 35,000 volts and he envisioned fibre installed alongside those cables.


Facebook has been experimenting since 2013 with different ways to make access to high speed internet more affordable. Zuckerberg said in a 10-page white paper that he believes connectivity is a “basic human right”.

Expanding internet access also gives Facebook an opportunity to rope in more users as more people go online. The company runs a connectivity lab that is part of an initiative called


Facebook’s efforts to bring free basic internet services to developing countries have faced political backlash. India banned the social network’s Free Basics programme in 2016 because of concerns that it favoured some internet services including Facebook’s over others.

The company denied the programme threatened net neutrality and made changes to address the concerns. Facebook in Peru started testing a new app called Discover that lets people browse text on any mobile.

Yael Maguire, Vice President of Engineering for Facebook’s Connectivity Lab said, “We really believe there is no silver bullet for connecting the world. There isn’t going to be one technology or one business model that’s going to get the entire job done. Rather than focus on any kind of one size fits all solution we are looking at building blocks.”

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