Meta’s shuttering its Connectivity arm almost 10 years after launching the initiative, according to a report from Light Reading. The company confirmed to both Light Reading and Fierce Wireless that it will instead split the division across its Infrastructure and Central Products teams.
Meta Connectivity (formerly Facebook Connectivity) launched in 2013 with the goal of getting more people online so they could use the company’s social networks. Through the initiative, the company developed and then shut down a project that involved autonomous, high-flying drones beaming the internet to underserved parts of the world. It also worked on creating a Starlink-like internet system using low Earth orbit satellites, but the staff developing it were picked up by Amazon last year.
It’s unclear when exactly Meta shut down its Connectivity arm, but its disappearance comes as part of last month’s layoffs and reorganization that eliminated about 11,000 jobs at the company. Meta continues to spend heavily on CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s expensive bid to build the metaverse, and the company expects this money-losing trend to continue in 2023.
Aside from ambitious projects involving drones, satellites, and an internet-toting helicopter, Meta Connectivity also offered free internet in developing countries, allowing users to access only Facebook and a few other websites. However, a report from The Wall Street Journal earlier this year found that some users were actually unknowingly getting charged by their mobile providers due to an issue with Facebook’s software. In October 2021, Meta said its internet service provided connectivity to more than 300 million users.
As noted by Light Reading, Meta Connectivity’s shutdown shouldn’t affect the company’s involvement in the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), which Meta helped found in 2016. The TIP is a group of telecom companies, service providers, and connectivity stakeholders that helps promote the development of new telecom infrastructure. Dan Rabinovitsj, the former head of Meta Connectivity, is still with the company, although it’s unclear if he will move to another department.