An Internet Connected Earth

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that more than half of the world’s population doesn’t have an Internet connection. It’s tricky to get an exact figure on this, however the number of people without connection is commonly agreed to be somewhere around 2/3rds of the population of the planet. There are some heavy hitters working on this problem with some pretty interesting solutions.

OneWeb is an outfit with [Richard Branson] as the front-man who plan to launch low orbit satellites to communicate with ground terminals. The ground terminals would rebroadcast the communication signals from the satellites resulting in 2G, 3G, LTE, and WiFi signals for those near a ground terminal.

SpaceX is throwing its hat in the ring with a little helpful funding from Google and Fidelity to the tune of $1 Billion.

Perhaps the most surprising is [Zuckerberg’s] solar-powered internet laser beaming drones. The idea is that these laser birds will circle over an Internet dead-zone like buzzard over a dying buffalo (reaching?) and provide connectivity to those below. The solar drones will fly at an altitude of 20km which is a pretty good ways up there, and they are believed to be able to stay in flight for months at a time. There’s a Facebook PhD explaining this in a video after the break, thanks Dr. Facebook.


28 thoughts on “An Internet Connected Earth

      1. ok, but the largest reason linux computers are rare to contract viruses, is there’s no market for them. i know my lubuntu laptop(which refuses to update for a reason i have yet to ascertain) is open to dozens of well known exploits, but i’ve only lost it to a virus once over four years, and i’m not even sure that’s what happened, i just… lost all the data on the harddrive. might have been a fairy with a large magnet, no real ideas. reinstalled, added data from my external drive, keeps going strong. add another 2 billion linux users, and our current server network will bog down, most users aren’t contributers like the samaritan few. it’s not that linux isn’t the answer, it’s just that linux isn’t inherently more secure than windows xp. i mean, two years ago, when microsoft supported it.

        1. Old post but I have to comment. That is not the case any more. There is more linux devices connected to internet than there is windows devices. You just have to count routers, set top boxes, Rasperry Pi’s and Android. Plus there is one segment that is much more valuable malware platform than home computer, server. These are 24/7 online, have fast connections etc and if you count virtualized server you get staggering number of casually maintained devices.

          But still there is practically no malware spreading…

  1. He doesn’t really explain anything about the ‘drones’. He just glosses over it. BTW those graphics look like they were done in Turtle or something. So the satellite stuff from oneweb and spacex sound like they transmit down to base stations which then convert to mode of choice. But what about the ‘drones’? What do they transmit? It’s supposed to be different in higher density areas, ok, so not mobile base station, not permanent base station, so now, dedicated frequencies? What transmission from the drone to the clients? Not lasers…that’s for the backhaul. So what then? Beam WiFi from 50km over a ‘medium density area’? doesn’t add up. So what then!? And why does facebook get to fly drones and experiment with stuff but amateurs have to be regulated to non-existence?

  2. I’d like to see use of tethered balloons for this. They could work at many hundreds of metres up so have greater coverage than a tower but take up almost no land. They need no energy to stay in position and less sophistication and less maintenance than an airborne vehicle..

      1. How often do aircraft crash into tall buildings and towers with the wreckage falling on a school bus killing the kids inside? you are bring up a problem that has been mitigated decades ago.

    1. or use the earth and atmosphere as a conductor and work some tesla magics. It would probably be slow though. If they harness entanglement this problem becomes null. Id probably not spend my money on this problem until I had a reasonable certainty that entanglement was not going to solve the problem.

        1. think of it like this , his wireless transfer of energy wasnt wireless it just used air as the wire. same basic idea, similar to how this uses the body for the same type of thing.

  3. I read somewhere not too long ago that cellular service was burgeoning in the third world, and that in combination with that was a system whereby folks could call an information center and the operators would effectively perform Google searches for them and read them back the high points. It sounds like The Onion, almost, but it was real. It was bringing all sorts of modern agricultural knowledge to third world farmers, allowing them to better predict local weather and basically increase yields incredibly cheaply.

  4. No matter what’s used to elevate the network transceivers in the shy there is still going to be many who will not have line of sight to them because of trees and such, unless they can elevate the transceiver at their end. The balloon idea another commenter could be deployed safely, but just like to planes but could be hampered by the wight of the equipment. Glad these peoepl are wotking on the problem, but I hope they never hurt themselves patting themselves on the back, because this not new out of the box thinking because in many ways is similar to what may ne the world’s first communications satellite

  5. How do you have two planes pointing lasers at each other?

    Lets assume the planes are 100km apart, and each has a receiver area of 10cm. Let’s also assume a perfect laser with with no diversion. The transmitter plane would have to keep the beam within 0.0001 degrees of the center of the receiver.

    This would have to be kept in a very fast two-way closed loop system so that the beam stays on target while the plane is moving and the atmosphere is wobbling the beam around. And if for some reason the transmitter loses the receiver and breaks the loop, then how does it find the receiver again to re-establish communication?

    It would be very very cool if there were a way to do this, however it seems to be a little bit too hard. What do you guys think?

    1. Assuming that the laser beam won’t diverge is one fault with your reasoning. You don’t need to capture the full width of the beam in order to extract the data. One aircraft just needs to know where the other is relative to it; be it with radar, GPS, or visual line of sight.

      I just don’t understand the point of the lasers. Why not use radio? Are they hoping to do wavelength-division multiplexing through open air as if it were a glass fiber?

  6. internet is great fun and all but it won’t feed, water, clothe, home, medicate them will it.
    maybe we should work on that first.
    I saw a documentary about african tribes and one guy had a mobile phone. how did he charge it? solar panels? who was he talking to on it? nobody. he liked it because it was shiny. if they are happy then leave them to it.

    1. As has been pointed out, the internet will help feed people, albeit indirectly. Weather patterns and access to crop information will help. Simply being able to identify the plight on your crops can save the harvest and prevent improper use of pesticides that end up not solving the problem.
      Granted there is also a colossal amount of infrastructure that needs to co-develop with it but access to the biggest library civilization has ever known will certainly help.
      Something like along the lines of the local/regional library model would be a boon to lots of places. Then there’s the success of the micro-loan services out there where you can give some village a $1000 loan/grant to start a business or buy . If you can’t interact with the rich first world it’s hard for them to help.
      There are already successful deployments of computers to developing villages and within a few months of boot strapping and ad hoc tutelage, children are interacting with the terminal and studying modern science and high level math (eg; The hole in the wall project).

      A billion dollars buys a lot of cell towers and community terminals.

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