From drones to balloons, companies try different methods to provide high speed internet connectivity

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With the advent of 4G, it has suddenly become all about high speed internet and companies join the race to offer the best. Here is a compilation of the efforts led by various companies to offer high speed internet from around the world.

Samsung, OneWeb to offer internet through satellites


Samsung, a company known for its technological innovations reveals its plans to offer internet via thousands of satellites orbiting the Earth. The report appeared in an article titled ‘Mobile Internet from the Heavens’, where the Samsung outlines the basic structure of a future Samsung space-based internet program.

According to the article, Human beings will be using a Zettabyte (1 Trillion Gigabytes) of data per month for five billion users. Samsung intends to fulfil this demand by using 4600 small satellites positioned closer to Earth. Most of the current satellites are positioned in geostationary orbits and are 35,000 kilometres above the surface.

Hence, anything sent from these satellites has a limitation on speed due to travel time. Samsung suggests the solution by positioning satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), hence can reduce this transmission delay. And, no single satellite can remain fixed over a particular position, that’s why they need many units to compensate. There will be a need to access multiple areas in RF spectrum so that continuous connection is maintained.

Other two companies that try similar methods are Airbus, Coca-Cola and Virgin Group. Partnering with OneWeb, a company committed to bring web to the whole world, they are building micro-satellites capable to deliver internet. The company intends to make the internet for world dream a reality by 2019.

OneWeb has also designed user terminals, measuring two feet across and 1 foot tall, which can be powered by solar panels or from the mains. They receive the signal from the satellites and pass it on via wifi, but also 4G, 3G and 2G broadband and voice mobile phone signals. The system will be capable of delivering speeds of up to 50 megabits per second – as fast as a typical cable broadband service.

Besides houses, OneWeb’s signals could be beamed to Airbus airplanes, ships and emergency vehicles, which would have terminals fixed to their roofs.

Microsoft vies for white space-based connectivity

Microsoft India proposed the use of ‘white space’ – the unused spectrum between two channels – to provide free connectivity to large section of people. According to Bhaskar Parmanik, Chairman, Microsoft India, the 200-300MHz spectrum band available in white space can reach up to 10km. This spectrum, which now belongs to Doordarshan remains unused and Microsoft runs a pilot project using white space in India and if turned successful, the project can be quickly rolled out across the country.

Microsoft already tried the project of white space-based connectivity in Cambridge during 2011. Although, the idea is not widely accepted anywhere in the world, experts believe it can bring connectivity in countries like India.

Google’s internet balloons aka Google Project Loon

Google has already tried, tested and launched its Google Project Loon, a method using balloons to deliver high speed connectivity. Recently, Sri Lanka adopted the Project Loon method to deliver connectivity villages lying along the stretch of Dondra (south) to Point Pedro (northern).

Under the Project Loon, helium-filled, hi-tech balloons made from polythene film are made to float in the stratosphere about 20km above Earth. The balloons are equipped with flight computers and the altitudes are controlled from the ground, keeping them moving along a desired channel by using different winds at different heights. Users would need to install a receiver in the ground to get signal.

Google claims the method to be cheaper than optical fibre cables. The transmitter on each balloon would beam down the internet to an area of about 1250

Facebook’s solar-powered internet drone Aquila

These unmanned solar-powered drone will fly without landing for three months at a time, using a laser to beam data to a base station on the ground. The company plans to use a linked network of the drones to provide internet access to large rural areas. However, Facebook will not be dealing with customers directly, instead will partner with local ISPs to offer the services.

Facebook’s plane will operate between 60,000ft (18km) and 90,000ft (27km) – above the altitude of commercial airplanes – so it would not be affected by weather. The drone with a wingspan of a Boeing 737, weigh 880lbs (400kg) and it will be launched with the help of helium balloons, which will rise it to its preferred height. When the plane comes back to Earth after three months, it will land like a glider because of its aerodynamic design.

Aquila will provide internet to people on Earth in a 50km radius. Small cellular towers and dishes will receive the signals sent by the aircraft and will convert those signals “into a Wi-Fi or LTE network that people can connect to with their cellphones and smartphones.”

Facebook also claims that the data can be transferred from drone to drone. If Facebook flies multiple planes it could be able to cover much larger swaths of land. If this is true, it would result in less Internet infrastructure needed to be built on the ground.

Reported By


An astute writer with a track record in writing and publishing content for various industries, Ria brings on board her wealth of experience in journalism and love for technology to TelecomTalk. When not writing or reading, she spends a copious amount of time daydreaming and finding obscure Japanese folklore on the internet.

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