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  • Pranit Manda

Internet for Everybody

Free and quality internet has become a long-discussed topic for a while now. Internet for the people living in the hilly areas and remote places have no access to the internet yet but we are calling it the 4th Generation of mobile networks. Also, we are going to enter the 5th generation of mobile networks. So, what is the major aspect that the industry has to focus on before the usage of 5G becomes more common? Everybody should have access to the internet, maybe not free but every area should be covered. As of today, Google and SpaceX by Elon Musk have been working hard to make this concept possible. Google has been calling this ‘Project Loon’ and SpaceX is calling it ‘StarLink’.

Google has already got the ‘Project Loon’ in some countries where the internet activity is sparse or almost NIL. Loon would be a group of balloons travelling at the edge of the space helping people without access to the internet to get connected seamlessly. Loon was already put to test in New Zealand and it worked out quite well. Currently loon has partnered with various mobile network operators like AT&T. They have been successful in establishing basic communication facility in many areas and are working to deliver LTE internet access to the people with LTE enabled phones. In 2017, Hurricane Maria had hit Puerto Rico and all the internet services on ground were disrupted. Google’s Loon has come to the rescue launching a balloon over Puerto Rico for emergency connectivity. The balloons fly 20Km up into the stratosphere, which is the second layer of the atmosphere well above the aircrafts, weather activity and the birds. Loon combines advancements in materials science, atmospheric modelling, machine learning, communications systems, and more. The loon balloon is powered by solar panels on it and consists of components that a mobile tower uses to transmit the signals.

These components have been made lighter that can be carried by the balloon up into the atmosphere. Each balloon is as big as a tennis court on an average. Predictive models of the winds and autonomous decision-making algorithms move each balloon up or down into a layer of wind blowing in the right direction, getting the balloon where it needs to go.

This video shows the use of the autonomous algorithm to get back to the correct stream of the wind to get back to its desired location.

These balloons help the mobile network operators increase network coverage exponentially. The base tower on the ground transmits the signals to the balloons which then amplify the signal and send back the signals to the remote areas to the user’s devices.

Another project being worked by the SpaceX team is the ‘StarLink’ model to provide internet access to everybody. The broadband internet network that covers the countries is like a circulatory system. Major arteries run from big city to big city, then smaller branches cover those cities and extend to nearby suburban cities. Hubs in those smaller cities branch out to reach more towns. People in the smallest communities and villages end up being the costliest places to reach with service. Just like the television satellites the satellites for internet services and communication are being launched by SpaceX.

As the name 'StarLink' suggests, this is a blanket or a huge network of satellites surrounding the atmosphere to provide internet everywhere just like we see the stars all over in the sky. To make the connection more convenient people don’t have to wait for a physical connection to be laid out instead it all works on the wireless satellite communication. Elon Musk’s analysis says that a third of Americans still don’t have access to the internet. Musk has said his goal for Starlink is to get to communities that have had almost no internet options until now. For these communities, Musk says, the “private beta” testing phase should begin in a few months, with public beta in six months. SpaceX's Starlink has over 400 satellites in orbit of a planned 40,000.

The only next factor to be thought about is the amount of radiations and the signal exposure all the living organisms on the planet would experience. Overall, the projects have a great aim of exposing everybody to the internet to improve services at remote areas and also quick actions during emergency. Give it a thought. A great innovation and thought by the top companies known. This technology hopefully resolves the current issues with the instability of the mobile networks and improves reach of communication also by not hindering the environment quality.

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