Internet To The World : Science-Fiction or Reality

May 5, 2014 by Binu George

Drones floating above with satellite tech supporting them will provide internet connectivity to the whole wide world. Does that sound too far fetched? Actually, this is gradually approaching reality.

Uh, what ?

Currently only one third of the population is hooked onto internet and its enchantments. For a dream of connecting the world, there still is two thirds to go. The connectivity venture aims at providing affordable access to basic internet services available to EVERY person in the world. This is the vision of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.

This would basically translate into cheaper Internet on cell phones and devices. A technique already tested successfully in Philippines and Paraguay, gaining almost 3 million additional users over the period of a year.

Woohoo Who?

The venture is spear headed by Internet.org a coalition of Facebook and other tech giants like Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera and Qualcomm. Facebook has also brought on aerospace experts from NASA and the team Ascenta, who specializes in high-altitude, long-endurance aircraft for building the drones.

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With help from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, the Ames Research Center and The National Optical Astronomy Observatory, Facebook has to develop a connective platform that works on the ground, in the air and while in orbit.

Wow. Why?

Well, in Zuckerberg’s own words, ‘Connectivity is a human right’.

You can maybe think of another obvious reason, more customers and better reach, thus resulting in better business.

Yes, there eventually will be positive business side effects. But they aren’t going to surface for some time to come and hence it makes sense to believe that isn’t the driving force.

Data access needs to be made roughly 100 times cheaper for companies to be able to offer basic text-based services, such as search, messaging etc as free. For this to transformation to happen effectively, the steps needed are:

• Increasing efficiency of mobile networks, data centers, data transmission, and spectrum allocation.

• Reducing the amount of data apps have to pull from networks through caching, compression, and futuristic technologies like peer-to-peer data transfer

• Creating business models that thrive when free data access is offered.

If the plan works, getting more people online, everyone in the mobile business could benefit. That includes Facebook and the device manufacturers spearheading this project, but also the carriers, app developers, e-commerce companies and advertisers. This means mobile operators will gain more customers and invest in accessibility; phone makers will see people wanting better devices; Internet providers will get to connect more people; and people will receive affordable Internet so they can join in and connect with the people they care about.

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How then?

This facet is vague, still.

Multiple satellites would need to be in orbit to provide adequate coverage. Drones will have to fly at 65,000 feel altitude, to offer better Internet access than the satellites because of how much closer they are to the ground. Their flights will have to be sustained for months at end. These could blanket a moderately dense area with microwave Internet, allowing multiple devices to pick up the signal — much like drone-based Wi-Fi. Lasers are being considered as the communication technology that will be loaded into the drones. So long as they have a clear shot at their target, lasers are limited only by the speed of light. And they require much less power. All of this has to be cheap, so they can be manufactured in the bulk and they should all be controllable.

The final product will likely involve a combination of these technologies.

What do you think; is it plausible? Yes!

Will it happen? Well in the connoisseur’s own words, ‘We know this plan will evolve, but we are deeply committed to finding a path to connect everyone in the world.’

Image Courtesy : thedrum.com, rewardcharity.com