Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s broadband

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s broadband

I saw an interesting article in The Times yesterday. Space Data, an American firm, has started attaching mini telephone masts to the weather balloons it launches in order to provide wireless broadband to rural and remote areas.

The service has been running successfully for four years, and is expected to become profitable this year. They are looking to expand, having patented its services in 41 countries, and the UK is a market they are looking at.

Space Data estimate that there is potentially a $10bn market in rural Internet access that is largely untapped by traditional Internet service providers.

Aside from the ingenuity of the idea, this model is another example of how fluid and rapidly changing the broadband marketplace is. In the UK recently H2O announced that they would be running fibre through the sewers in some parts of the UK. In other countries, utility companies have been involved in laying fibre networks and providing wholesale access to service providers.

In this constantly evolving market new entrants are emerging, new models are being developed and new services are becoming available. The emerging landscape is difficult to predict, and it will be interesting to see what part weather balloons, sewers, and other as yet unknown concepts play in the development of NGA in the UK.

Peter Shearman, Policy Manager, BSG

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