The billion-dollar investment received by space transport services company SpaceX from Google and Fidelity demonstrates the increasing interest of companies to venture into space-based Internet service provision. Although smaller and mostly localised, companies or Internet Service Providers have since dominated the industry in different parts of the globe. Nonetheless, the move of several major companies stems from the need to advance and even capitalise on the future of digital communication age.
The future of digital communication is in space
Google has rolled out several initiatives aimed at providing Internet service from space. The Project Loom for instance, launched in June 2013, involves deploying Internet-beaming balloons in the stratosphere. The Internet search giant has also acquired drone manufacturer Titan Aerospace in April 2014, thereby giving the company the exclusive right to use solar-powered, high-altitude drones “atmospheric satellites” to provide Internet services.
The recent investment in SpaceX highlights the strong commitment of Google to venture into space-based Internet service provision.
Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has also rolled out similar initiative. In 2013, the social networking site has partnered with six mobile phone companies including Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera Software, and Qualcomm to launch Internet.org—a project aimed at delivering affordable Internet service. Zuckerberg wants to use high-flying drones as part of the project.
Several high-tech companies have also channeled their resources toward promising high-tech startup OneWeb, Ltd.
Greg Wyler founded OneWeb in 2014. Prior to this venture, he was the founder of and executive at O3b Network, a next generation network service provider. When Google invested in O3b Network, Wyler became part of the Internet search giant. However, he subsequently left the two companies, bringing with him the rights to the radio frequency initially intended for future O3b Network projects.
Now, as the chief executive of OneWeb, Wyler foresees his company to become an Internet service provider. In January 15, his company announced the plan of building, launching, and operating a low-earth-orbit satellite constellation to deliver high-speed Internet and telephony services.
Semiconductor company Qualcomm Incorporated and multinational capital venture conglomerate Virgin Group are the initial investors of OneWeb.
Capitalizing on the future of the Internet
The motivation behind the ongoing investments is simple: The company who controls the skies will control the future of digital communication.
About 100 years ago, telecommunication company AT&T revolutionised and monopolised the American telecommunication company when it laid down communication cables across the United States. Companies such as Google, Facebook, and OneWeb are attempting to do the same.
Data from the International Telecommunication Union revealed that as of late 2014, more than half of the global population or 3 billion people still lack Internet access due to economic hurdles, including infrastructural limitations. Instead of using cables to reach the untapped areas of the world, satellites, drones and other aircraft counterparts offer the most feasible solution.
Putting the entire globe online would mean more business opportunities for online-enabled tech giants such as Google and Facebook. After all, such vision would translate into more people—about 3 billion of them—shopping online, clicking on advertisements, consuming contents, and interacting on social media.
There is, of course, some aspect of corporate social responsibility behind the aforementioned initiatives of major companies. Because Internet has become critical to day-to-day communication and business, access has also become an emerging human right. Advancing Internet accessibility would thereby create a win-win situation between companies like Google and the greater global community.