Facebook announced its new “Tether-Tenna Technology” at its annual F8 developer conference on Wednesday. Tether-Tenna works by beaming Wi-Fi from a helicopter drone, which is tethered to a fiber line and grounded power source.
The drone provides Wi-Fi access to areas it hovers above. Tether-Tenna is Facebook’s latest effort to provide internet access to unconnected users around the world and is primarily aimed at emergency zones (areas of natural disaster and damaged infrastructure). Head of Facebook’s Connectivity lab Yael Maguire referred to the technology as “insta-infrastructure” in a blog post on Wednesday. The drone is still in early testing phases and hasn’t yet been deployed to disaster areas.
This is just the latest update to Facebook’s global connectivity efforts. Maguire calls Facebook’s approach a “building block” strategy wherein the company creates different connectivity solutions for different regions and different scenarios. While Facebook’s Tether Tenna drone is marketed toward serving emergency areas, it’s also another building block to Facebook’s ultimate goal of making internet access globally ubiquitous — which means more Facebook users. Other Facebook-made building blocks include Terragraph and Aquila. Terragraph is a multi-node wireless system designed to strengthen dense urban areas’ Wi-Fi networks through extending fiber using wireless. Aquila is an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that beams internet connectivity through millimeter-wave technology.
Connectivity efforts are a key part of Facebook’s growth strategy because developed markets are saturated and emerging markets experience issues in access to affordable, high quality mobile networks. Facebook had 1.23 billion daily active users (DAUs) in Q4 2016, 36% of which were from Europe or the US and Canada, markets whose YoY user growth has slowed to single digits. The other 64% of Facebook’s DAUs in the quarter were from the Asia-Pacific or the Rest of the World, markets that are seeing YoY growth rates between 22% and 28%. To maintain growth, Facebook will continue to build its connectivity building blocks as it bids to get the unconnected on its platform.
The communications market is in the midst of an all-out war. The deluge of messaging apps, such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, and Viber, have over-run the segment traditionally owned by SMS and a massive revenue generator for wireless carriers.
And consumers are beginning to view these chat apps not as messaging platforms but as portals to the internet. This is threatening the control Google and Apple have over the mobile ecosystem via Android and iOS. And while Apple addressed this concern with the introduction of iMessage in 2011, Google has largely left Android’s messaging capabilities up to phone makers and carriers to deal with.
For their part, device manufacturers are looking for the newest technology to make their products more appealing than the next vendor’s, as the smartphone market becomes increasingly competitive. Their hunger for improved native messaging capabilities is one of the contributing forces driving the evolution of native messaging.
An emerging messaging standard called Rich Communications Services (RCS) is showing promise as a solution for these players. Google is wagering that RCS will make Android more competitive with iOS while improving the attractiveness of the OS’s native messaging client compared with chat apps.
Laurie Beaver, research analyst for BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, has compiled a detailed report on the Android messaging evolution that explores how Google, carriers, and OEMs can take advantage of the new standard to drive revenue, increase user engagement, and improve the overall messaging experience. Finally, it looks at the target markets for RCS and the required steps to drive adoption.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:
- An emerging tech standard called Rich Communication Service (RCS) will power Android’s next-generation native messaging app, giving Android smartphone users a more powerful alternative to SMS.
- RCS will enable Android Messaging users to send larger, higher-quality images, as well as share their location information and make video calls by default. Android users currently rely on over-the-top messaging apps like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp to access these features.
- The strategic implications of Google’s embrace of RCS are profound, making Android “stickier” and giving it a competitive edge.
- Adopting RCS will have knock-on effects across the mobile ecosystem. Because Android’s user base is so massive, these may be profound and vary from player to player.
In full, the report:
- Explains what RCS is and why it’s important.
- Explores the different ways Google, carriers, developers, and phone makers can access, utilize, and distribute content via RCS.
- Outlines the steps needed for encourage RCS adoption by global carriers and phone makers.
- Looks at the potential barriers that could limit the growth, adoption, and use of RCS.
- And much more.
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