Silicon Valley

The company has confirmed it intends to launch its satellite in early 2019.

Some background: Last month, Facebook announced the end of its effort to develop Aquila, an autonomous drone that provides internet access.

The news: According to e-mails obtained by Wired from the Federal Communications Commission and a confirmation from the company, Facebook has shifted its focus to space. It’s now developing the Athena satellite for launch next year. It’s intended to “efficiently provide broadband access to unserved and underserved areas throughout the world.”

Why it matters: This puts Facebook in with a group of tech companies developing internet satellites, including SpaceX, Boeing, and OneWeb, a business backed by Softbank. Private companies like SpaceX (and its new Block 5 rockets) are providing increased access to satellite launches, making space-based internet a more feasible option. These companies are banking on space, rather than fiber-optic cables, being the key to providing a connection to hard-to-reach areas.

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