This week there were two competing announcements concerning bringing the Internet to the 3B (half the world’s population) using Satellite constellations in low earth orbit. The two announcements were competing but strangely similar. First Richard Branson announced his system joint with Qualcomm working with OneWeb run by Greg Wyler a veteran in Satellite Internet and comms delivery using a modified version of Virgin Galactic to launch 648 satellites at low cost(relative to costs of today’s satellite launches). On Friday Elon Musk announced almost the same thing but using his SpaceX rockets as the launcher. Oddly Elon and OneWeb’s Greg Tyler are long term friends but apparently they have fallen out over the technical details on how the satellite constellation should be constructed and parted ways. The problem for Elon is he does not own the slots for the satellites so there may be an issue to his approach. Richard Branson has commented that Elon should work with them not compete.
These announcements follow Zuckerberg’s Internet.org announcements of cheap internet for the 3rd world using an app to bring free internet and Google project loon which uses solar powered drone aircraft. In factZuckerberg actually launched this free service this week in Columbia
These announcements makes you think how the Internet will be used by these 3B who are also the poorest people in the world. Zuckerberg is trying to find ways to make the Internet free to these people by limited the services offered through an app. The fact is that a satellite system costing billions of dollars cannot be entirely free even though it will be used commercially by aircraft and business throughout the world.
How do you make the Internet free to these 3B people. The answer is you provide a very different Internet to today’s Internet. This new Internet must be designed to be used intermittently online and its data needs to be available when offline. This structure is very applicable to mobile phone apps which can work entirely offline — its not really very applicable to today’s web-site structure although it is possible to design website’s to work offline too.
I also think Digital Publishing in the developing world will be very different — it must be hugely democratised and also publishing needs to be from the mobile phone and not the PC. Content also needs to work on all Phones — this is hard to do with Apps — this is the reason why we’ll see the rise of publishing platforms for mobile — this is what I am working on. It’s exciting times, the Internet is going to double in size but needs to work very differently to today’s internet to keep costs down and still be usable.