Enough for everyone, or how to deliver the Internet to developing countries

    According to the Internet World Stats, only a third of the population of Africa and half of the inhabitants of Asia and the Middle East have access to the Internet. Large telecommunication and IT companies are trying to rectify the situation by developing new network technologies and initiatives.

    Next, we will talk about the Facebook mesh technology and the projects of other IT giants.

    / Flickr / Plusea / CC

    Mesh networks from Facebook

    In 2016, Facebook launched the Express Wi-Fi project . Within its framework, the company provided software that enabled providers and entrepreneurs from India, Kenya, Tanzania, Indonesia and Nigeria to provide Internet access to people in rural areas. Connection is via public Wi-Fi hotspots.

    Some time after launching the project on Facebook, we ran into a problem. Covering Wi-Fi networks with an entire city in these countries proved problematic - there are often no opportunities or means to deploy as many hot spots as possible.

    In late August, it became known that the company decided to merge Wi-Fi access points into a single mesh network. This will reduce the cost of deployment, because you do not have to configuretransportation networks for each internet access point. Wi-Fi devices will independently “communicate” with each other and transmit backhaul traffic.

    Now, Facebook is creating a special software that will help local operators to implement and manage mesh networks. They are also working on a framework capable of supporting up to 50 Wi-Fi points.

    Mesh networks have already started testing in Tanzania. Developers want to see if the urban landscape will interfere with networking. In the spring of this year, Facebook also released the Express Wi-Fi app. The application helps residents of Kenya and Indonesia to find the nearest hot spots and use high-speed Wi-Fi instead of the slow mobile Internet.

    Other projects

    The Express Wi-Fi project is not the first Facebook attempt to deliver the Internet to remote corners of the planet. Express Wi-Fi had a predecessor project, Free Basics , launched in India. However, he “lived” not for long, as the company violated the principle of net neutrality . Free Basics allowed residents of the country to visit a number of Internet resources for free (including facebook.com), but blocked access to IT giant competitors. Therefore, the Indian authorities "covered" Free Basics.

    The company also worked on the Aquila project. The idea was to connect the inhabitants of remote regions with the help of drones. However, in July of this year, the project turned off, because Facebook found it insolvent. Now the IT giant is developing new solutions in partnership with other companies.

    For example, they help build 770 km of optical fiber in Uganda and are working with Airbus to create HAPS (high altitude platform station) aerial platforms. The latter is also associated with the development of aircraft, "distributing the Internet" to the ground.

    Air assistance offered by other organizations. In 2013, the holding Alphabet, which includes Google, launched Project Loon. The goal of the project is to deliver high-speed Internet to remote locations around the globe using aerostats.

    / Flickr / bruce washburn / cc

    These balloons drift in the stratosphere at an altitude of 18-25 km and represent a kind of "point" of the wireless network. All electronics "on board" is powered by solar panels.

    As part of this project, the company has worked with many countries : from New Zealand to Kenya. For example, in 2017, the authors of the project decided to provide access to the residents of Puerto Rico on the network, and at the same time help the islanders affected by Hurricane Maria , re-establish communication.

    Another example is the company Quika, which this year launches a free satellite service for residents of developing countries. It employs Ka-band and satellites in geostationary and low earth orbits. While in the planscompanies deliver the internet to Afghanistan, Iraq and African countries. Later, the service will be launched on other continents.

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