Microsoft’s expanded ‘Airband’ initiative aims to connect 40 million people

Google and Facebook might be well-known names for their (somewhat controversial) efforts to expand internet availability and access through respective initiatives such as Loon and the canceled Aquila drone, and now yet another internet giant is stepping into the ring. Enter Microsoft.

While its name might not be as well known as either of its counterparts, Microsoft’s ‘Airband’ initiative has previously focused on expanding internet coverage in rural parts of the United States. Now, in a new statement, the company has turned its gaze to Sub-Saharan Africa as well as Latin America.

While Google has focused on weather balloons and Facebook (for a time) believed in autonomous drones, Microsoft’s Airband play has previously used a somewhat – and literal – niche spectrum to deliver internet access.

In the US, Microsoft has offered broadband access to 3 million citizens by leveraging unused TV white space (TVWS) in the 600 MHz spectrum range. The company has confirmed that going forward, however, it will use other undisclosed ‘innovative technologies’.

Microsoft has clarified four major aims behind its expanded initiative:

  • “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.”

While we’ll have to wait to see what efforts the Redmond giant brings to South Africa, the company has reiterated one encompassing goal – to connect around 40 million people to the internet by 2022.

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