Delivering internet connectivity economically to remote places without internet access is almost a challenge akin to bringing water to arid deserts, except for two key differences. Firstly, the former has greater financial payoff potential and secondly, technology for realizing the former at economical scale is developing and maturing faster than that for the latter. Today, there are at least four ways of realizing this vision of "Internet-anywhere".
This list is an informational supplement to our Insights Report How Google, Facebook, Amazon, SpaceX And Others Are Competing To Deliver Reliable High-Speed Internet To Africa. View the report.
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Diverse ways to deliver high-capacity Internet beyond traditional terrestrial optic fibre cabling infrastructure:
1. Stratospheric Balloons - this solution makes use of a network of balloons floating in the stratosphere to provide 4G LTE services. One of the most prominent projects in this space is Alphabet's Project Loon which is beginning to commercialize in Kenya in partnership with Telkom Kenya.
2. Satellite Constellations - this solution makes use of satellite networks of different orbit paths, such as LEO (low-earth orbit) and GEO (geostationary orbit), to provide Internet connectivity. Companies in this space include Amazon (Kuiper Project), SpaceX (Starlink), Facebook (Athena Project), OneWeb, Quika and Intelsat.
3. Subsea Cables - In 2019-2020, two large-scale subsea cabling projects were launched to connect continental Africa to the rest of the world at faster Internet speeds - Project Equiano by Google and 2Africa by a consortium of international companies, including China Mobile International, Facebook, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, stc, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone, and WIOCC.
4. Drones and UAVs - Project Loon has also tied up with HAPSMobile, a company of Softbank, to explore the use of drones as another means of providing Internet connectivity. So has Minnesota-based startup Spooky Action whose Telelift drones are capable of being mobile cell towers and is programmable for up to six weeks of continuous flight.
Find out more at our Insights Report.