In case you were worried that the age of blimps has come and gone, Google is here to reassure you: blimps are about to have a big moment. The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday May 24, that Google has plans to help build and run wireless networks in emerging economies. Providing these wireless networks would help to connect about one billion new people to the Internet. These networks would primarily serve areas like sub-Saharan Africa, Southwest Asia and those outside major metropolitan areas.
Putting this together won't cost trillions of dollars either. Instead, Google is going to rely what WiredUK is calling "an ecosystem of low-cost smart phones running Android on low-power microprocessors." Google will use blimps or "high-altitude platforms" to transmit the system across hundreds of square miles.
Another key part of the plan is to utilize unused TV channels — called white spaces — to improve Internet connections. Back in March 2013, Google announced a trial in 10 schools within the Cape Town area. The purpose was to illustrate that broadband internet can be provided without any disruption to those who pay for TV licenses. This will be a vital step for Google, as they attempt to persuade regulators to let them use airwaves reserved for TV broadcasts.
Image: via Official Google Blog
Google will be using multiple technologies to connect these emerging markets; each economy will like require a unique set of solutions. Currently, about one-third of the world does not have internet access, though some estimates put that number much higher.
PBS has discussed the importance of Internet access within the United States, without it, Americans are cut off from opportunity. The same can be said for internet access worldwide. It's an incredibly important step in bridging economies and providing equal opportunities to individuals everywhere. Internet access, or the lack thereof, often translates into the economic strength of a country.
"Home internet access also has implications for the education of a nation's youth, the productivity of its workers, and the civic engagement of its citizens. Home internet access provides students with access to critical materials for education, workers with ways to stay connected and productive during hours away from their place of business, and all citizens with news and resources they can use to learn and connect with others."
Providing Internet access to more than one billion people worldwide isn't a fools errand, it's a vital part of increasing the economic opportunity and viability of emerging markets. I'm sure it doesn't hurt Google's bottom line either; one billion more possible Google users? It's hard to see the downside of this venture.