Microsoft will connect 5 million Africans with satellites

The digital giants want the number of internet users in the world to increase. As a result, they have many projects aimed either at improving connectivity in the world or at giving internet access to people who are not covered by mobile data.

Connecting everyone, the challenge of the internet giants

Google, for example, has experimented with its “Loons” balloons to offer internet to isolated populations. Other companies, including Meta, have tried to develop solar-powered drones that performed like satellites.

But today it seems obvious (as demonstrated by Elon Musk’s Starlink service) that the most viable way to connect remote areas is through the use of (real) satellites. Moreover, Starlink competitors or potential competitors are more and more numerous. For its part, Microsoft decides to partner with Viasat, a company that already provides internet via satellite.

Microsoft partners with Viasat to connect 10 million people

This week, as part of its Microsoft Airband Initiative project aimed at extending Internet access around the world, Microsoft is formalizing its collaboration with Viasat. According to the Redmond firm, this partnership facilitates internet access for 10 million people worldwide, including 5 million Africans.

Microsoft’s Airband Initiative is already active in many countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Guatemala, Mexico and the United States. The partnership with Viasat will strengthen the project’s action in these countries. In addition, Microsoft intends to expand its action in other African countries, including Egypt, Senegal and Angola.

100 million people in Africa, half a billion in the world

Teresa Hutson, vice-president at Microsoft, explains that the group’s objective is to provide high-speed internet access to 100 million people in Africa. And globally, the goal is to connect a quarter of a billion people.

Viasat satellites allow Microsoft to reach “remote areas that previously had little or no conventional connectivity options.”
Rather discreet (compared to other projects of digital giants in terms of connectivity), Microsoft’s Airband project has already had a significant impact in the world. According to the firm, since its launch in 2017, the project has already provided a fast internet connection to more than 51 million people: 4 million in the United States, and 47 million people living in 16 other countries.

In order to provide this access, the Airband project works with local or regional actors, in the energy and telecommunications sectors, but also with NGOs.

The hardest part of the world’s population to connect

Note that Microsoft announces this extension of its Airband program with satellites, while the International Telecommunications Union is concerned that the objective of having a universal connection in 2030 cannot be achieved. In recent years, the number of internet users in the world has been growing.

And currently, it is estimated that there are 5.3 billion Internet users on the planet, compared to 2.7 billion people who do not have access to the Internet. If the UN agency is worrying, it is because it believes that most people living in places that are easy to connect to now have internet. And “Those who are still offline mostly live in remote and hard-to-reach areas.”

In essence, it remains the most difficult part of the world’s population to connect, unless using satellites?

Leave a Comment