Getting there - quickly
Addressing the infrastructure gap might get a whole lot easier due to the work that is being done through a number of competing players. As opposed to building masses of infrastructure on the ground, we’re going to get it from the sky. There are at least four major players competing in this space:
Google Loon - project Loon balloons float in the stratosphere, twice as high as airplanes and the weather. 12 miles up in the stratosphere, Loon balloons will allow people to connect to high speed internet from their phones and other LTE-enabled devices.
Google is also looking at drone technology to be integrated into the Loon network. In April 2014 Google acquired Titan Aerospace, a firm that specializes in developing solar and electric unmanned aerial systems ('UAS') for high altitude, long endurance flights.
SpaceX - you’ll hear Elon Musk’s name mentioned a lot on Cleanleap. We love the Tesla and now the SpaceX engineering team is going to build its own network of interconnected satellites. It’s a similar concept to Google’s but is 740 miles higher up, outside the atmosphere. The network size is increasing from the original plan and is now looking at 4000 connected satellites. You can read more about it in this excellent article. Recent news is Musk and Google might be working together on this initiative and that Google has invested $1 Billion in SpaceX.
OneWeb - the approach being used by OneWeb is sort of like a next generation version of the today’s global satellite network from Iridium communications, providing the first ever satellite network with high-speed access worldwide. The firm is back by Virgin and Qualcomm and will use a constellation of 646 micro-satellites positioned in a medium earth orbit (MEO), lower than other satellite technologies to cut down on the lag-time for things like voice and video communication.
Facebook - Mark Zuckerberg certainly wouldn't want to sit idly by and let these guys have all the fun. Facebook is looking at solar-powered drones to provide connectivity to billions of people currently without access. Facebook’s Connectivity Labs is building the technology and through partnerships through Internet.org is seeing an early stage push into Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia and Columbia.
Airbus - its not just IT and telecommunications companies looking to get into the game. Airbus is using its expertise in building aircraft to provide a solar-powered aircraft that can provide internet connectivity as well. According to the video below, its well ahead of Google and Facebook. At the rate things are going we’ll likely find out soon.
So what does it mean for Cleanleap countries?
So with these kinds of companies putting forward plans to radically grow the market we might find our connectivity projections too conservative and faster uptake rates and corresponding economic growth. Emerging economies are already providing consumer-driven Cleanleaps with mobile telephony, solar and banking - if we see another with pervasive internet connectivity we’ll see a full spectrum of solutions tied together.