Internet connectivity through satellites 🛰. Is it needed?

I’m blessed with a good group of friends to have lunch with everyday at work, in all the companies I’ve worked in. We all come from different backgrounds and so we end up talking about interesting subjects with different point of views. I’m planning to file these under ‘Lunch Table’. What I write under these topics are just what I know or discovered from www, these may not be accurate.

Recently we were talking about ‘does Alien life exist’. That’s a deep topic and rest assured we did not come to a definitive answer on that. Talking about space, one of us mentioned – SpaceX starlink satellite train. In brief, this is what I gathered from Starlink Press Kit:

“SpaceX is targeting Thursday, May 23forthe launch of 60Starlink satellitesfrom Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. SpaceX’s Starlinkis a next-generation satellite network capable of connecting the globe, especially reaching those who are not yet connected, with reliable and affordable broadband internet services”

I thought the majority of the globe was connected and what more internet connectivity are we asking for. Then one of the guys mentioned about the Google Loon Project. That got me thinking, If the likes of Google, Facebook and Elon Musk are thinking about it, it really must be a significant problem. Here’s what I have gathered about internet connectivity in the world.

What does internet connectivity mean: Ability for people to connect to the world wide web and consume the content, through mobile or desktop or any other form of computer.

Why is it important: Did you know it is part of UN sustainable development goals (9.c). The reason even UN insists on this is because there is lot of good knowledge that can be shared/consumed through the internet,

From this article in Quartz.

Broadband has become an essential part of 21st-century infrastructure. New cloud services are making it a necessity to starting and growing small businesses, as well as advancing industries as varied as education, health care, agriculture, small-business development, and humanitarian response. Without access to the internet, unconnected communities are at a disadvantage, and the digital divide will continue to grow wider.

Ok. So where are we now? What’s the current connectivity.

When we spoke about connectivity, you might have just remembered the small village that you visited a year back where your uncle was enjoying some video on Facebook. So you thought ‘hey, if they had it, I’m sure at least 70% of the world already has it. right?’. Wrong! UN had an audacious goal to connect half of the world’s population by 2017 and the everyone by 2020, but the adoption has slowed down and we might reach the 50% mark in 2019.

Well, then why is it taking so long? can’t we just put up more of those bird-killing radiation-emitting internet towers sooner?

excerpt from another great article on state of internet access:

Many of those offline are in areas that are difficult, and therefore costly, to hook up to the internet. The expense puts telecoms providers off because the communities are those least able to afford the high prices they must charge to get a return on the investment. At the same time, the internet may have little appeal for people in the world’s most remote regions. Even if they can afford the mobile phone and data costs, they may lack the skills to go online, and find little of interest in a language they know if they do.

“It’s not just about connectivity,” said Johnson. “You have to make it worthwhile for people to pay to connect. There has to be content they can understand and is of benefit to them.” He said efforts to provide internet access through new satellite constellations or high-altitude balloons could make a “huge difference”.

Two problems with connectivity. It’s not about just access but also about content that people can understand.

So I got curios, what are the main problems with internet accessibility:

Below image is from this article. Looks like data is from 2015.

internet-access-problem

Bottom line: Looks like not even 50% of the world is connected and large orgs are trying to help connect the world, of course not for free!