A couple of years ago, Microsoft launched the Airband Initiative with the aim of serving broadband internet access to two million people living in the rural U.S. by 2022. The Redmond firm has collaborated with several other companies to further the initiative this year, including Watch Communications and, more recently, Nextlink Internet.
Although the goal of providing high-speed internet to two million people was increased to three million people earlier this year, Microsoft is now taking an even bigger step forward in its Airband plans. At the Devex Conference on International Finance today, the tech giant announced that its initiative is being expanded beyond the United States. As such, the firm will be aiming to serve internet access to 40 million people across the globe by 2022.
Initially, areas in which regulatory interest aligns with the betterment of connectivity and people are significantly underserved will be targeted. These include Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Notably, this isn't the first time Microsoft has utilized TV white spaces to bring internet connectivity in the aforementioned areas. However, this was previously done on a project-by-project basis, while now, it comes under the scope of Airband, with a specific goal to target.
Microsoft believes that a diverse range of technologies and business models lays at the core of closing the connectivity gap. With this in mind, Airband International has been modeled on a four-part solution:
- Removing regulatory obstacles to TV White Space (TVWS) and other technologies that help our partners extend their networks quickly in unserved, predominantly rural, areas.
- Partnering with local internet service providers (ISPs) to provide affordable, reliable internet services.
- Enabling rural digital transformation in newly connected areas, with a focus on supporting agriculture, education, rural entrepreneurship and telemedicine, as well as off-grid energy sources where necessary in order to improve rural productivity and livelihood.
- Building a larger ecosystem of support, with a focus on stimulating international financing, to scale connectivity projects beyond our own direct investments.
Microsoft has also brought attention towards its efforts to create long-term internet solutions in countries like Colombia and Ghana. The company believes that although its new target isn't that easy to achieve, assistance from firms - as was received in the aforementioned countries -, as well from international organizations and development finance institutions, will go a long way towards making it possible.