Following Ubiquitous Broadband
Following Ubiquitous Broadband
My recent TechCast blog on Ubiqituous Broadband was only out a week when the major players started reorganizing the field once again. Google and Facebook withdrew from the space race and shelved their plans to develop satellite broadband networks. In the blink of an eye, other entrepreneurs including Elon Musk's SpaceX leapt to the challenge. The quest for ubiquitous broadband continues.
SpaceX, which had been thinking about satellite Internet service since late last year, filed with the FCC intending to build and launch 4,000 small communications satellites into orbit to create a global broadband network that would compete with other service providers. Initial testing would use SpaceX's own rockets for orbital insertion and follow up with connecting ground stations on the West Coast for testing and proof of concept. Having their own launching capability gives Space X a big advantage, and many think it could become a major Internet provider, especially in the developing world. Should testing succeed, SpaceX anticipates its network would be operational in five years.
The logic of this escapes no one and is not limited to the private sector. The next billion internet users will be coming from the developing world where access is relatively more difficult and expensive to obtain. Putting devices in the hands of users and making access affordable is crucial. Governments and intergovernmental organizations are calling more loudly than ever for solutions. This week the Internet Society (ISOC) published a report on The Internet and Sustainable Development in anticipation of this year's meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF ), which will be themed "Evolution of Internet Governance: Empowering Sustainable Development." The report leads with a call to make Internet service more affordable and accessible in support of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.
Facebook and Google have not given up the hunt however. Despite receiving criticism from civil liberties organizations, Facebook's internet.org initiative to provide free but more limited Internet access in cooperation with existing infrastructure providers shows that there is more than one way to reach these users. Google continues to invest in satellites with O3b.
Ubiquitous broadband and global connectivity are still the goals of Internet companies. While satellites, blimps, and drones are high-profile ways of deploying access, the coming Internet of Things combined with mesh networks offer yet another way of deploying ubiquitous broadband. Increasingly, every device and sensor-laden object will be tied to data-gathering networks. While these devices need to communicate their information, they can also pass along information transmitted to them.
The promise of ubiquitous broadband is not a question of if but when. When we think about the history of mobile devicesâ??and increasingly that is how people around the world access the Internetâ??innovation is accelerating rapidly. Remember: the first mobile phone emerged in 1983, and the iPhone only came out in 2007 to jump start the digital revolution.
For more, see TechCast's forecasts on Internet of Things and Global Brain.
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