The race for the next one billion Internet users
Every major technology company seems to have a strategy that connects the next one billion users to the Internet and all have their eye on the developing markets around the world. Winning this race will embed their brand in those markets and guarantee future revenue growth for many years to come. But some of the strategies just seem crazy.
If you are going to connect people in developing markets you need to connect them to the Internet. The Internet is powered by thin fibre optic cables buried beneath the sea bed that connects continents not satellites as many seem to believe. The reason for this is that cables are the cheapest and most efficient way to carry massive amounts of data.
The roll out of cables is probably too slow for Google and Facebook’s so as a result they are working to develop solutions that do not use cables but drones or balloons positioned high in the stratosphere above the cities of the world.
Google’s project Loon will use high-altitude balloons to circle the globe using wind currents and solar power to provide WiFi connectivity to remote locations in developing markets.
Facebook’s solution involves solar powered aircraft. Right now they are looking to acquire Titan Aerospace a producer of high-altitude UAVs drones for $60 million, with the plan to launch 11,000 Solara 60 drones into the skies of the world. The major difference is that while Google’s balloons can stay in the air for around 100 days the Facebook drones can remain flying for up to 5 years.
But balloons and drones cannot be the most cost effective way to deliver the Internet to next one billion Internet users, and you would think that a big consideration in connecting the people of the developing world would not just be availability but affordability. So if the drones and balloons deliver the Internet but at a price many cannot afford then what is the point?
The point is that it seems to be the right thing to do, through the Internet we will be able to provide education to those who are illiterate, connect people with doctors and eradicate disease and study weather patterns that will help farmers manage through times of drought.
In the process of saving the world you would have to think that they may also be able to sell some advertising.