Microsoft is looking to bring its ‘Airband’ initiative international in its quest to connect 40 million more people to the internet by July 2022.
The Redmond, Washington-based company launched the program in 2017 to improve internet access in rural America. Now the company is shifting focus to Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.
In the U.S., Airband utilized unused TV white space (TVWS) operating in the 600MHz band to offer internet access to 3 million Americans. However, Microsoft will need to expand beyond TVWS internationally. In a blog post about the initiative, Microsoft says it will use other “innovative technologies” alongside TVWS to provide access to people.
Microsoft aims to work with local organizations to understand the needs of an area, partner with governments to remove regulatory obstacles and with ISPs to deliver internet access.
On top of this, Microsoft says it’s already seen some success with international Airband projects. In Colombia, for example, the company has connected two schools and fire farms using TVWS. Additionally, Microsoft co-invested with local ISPs to extend internet access to 6 million rural Colombians.
In Ghana, Microsoft helped deregulate TVWS technology, which will allow one broadband provider to offer its services to as many as 800,000 people.
It’s important to note that Microsoft isn’t the only big tech company working to bring internet access to more people. Both Google and Facebook have initiatives to provide internet access to more people. Further, both companies have experimented with crazy new technologies to do it, from Google’s Wi-Fi weather balloons to Facebook’s drones and satellites.
For all three of these companies, the motivation is clear: every new internet user is a potential new customer — the more people with internet access, the more customers.