Internet Access for All – A True World Wide Web
Will everyone have Internet access some day?
In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee invented what is known as the World Wide Web. The reason behind it was to make the transfer of documents easier between physics laboratories from his employer CERN, but it turned out to be the foundation of something that changed the world. The World Wide Web did actually change the world, because many daily jobs depend on it and a lot of people would even swear that they cannot live without it. However, not all places in the world have Internet access yet. This is slowly but surely starting to change. Two giant companies are working on providing Internet access all over the world: Google and Facebook. They both have their own special approach to realizing this.
On the one hand, Google started with their so-called ‘project Loon’ in June 2013. The core of their idea is to have a Wi-Fi-network created by balloons which will provide this world-wide Internet access. All the balloons have a signal attached to them, which is connected to all other balloons and an Internet station on the ground. An advantage is that the balloons can rise up to 20km, the so-called stratosphere (i.e. 10km above the rainfall, clouds, mountains, airplane traffic and so on). In the stratosphere, there are very specific air directions. This makes it possible to ‘easily’ navigate the direction of the balloons by moving the balloons a bit up or down to get in the desired air direction. A large disadvantage is that the balloons have to stay close together in order to provide proper Internet access. The balloons depend on the air direction for the direction they are going, so difficulties might arise on this part.
On the other hand, Facebook has announced last March that they will start a project for Internet access all over the world as well. Their project core is based on drones (see picture), flying about 20 kilometers high and using solar energy. The drones will provide Internet access via laser beams. In addition to this, Facebook announced that they will use satellites. The project seems to be an improvement compared to Google due to more advanced technology, but Facebook does recognize that still not everyone on the world will have access to the Internet after the project will be realized (i.e. two third of the population). Nonetheless, they hired communication experts from Nasa and employees from Ascenta, the creators of the drone with the longest solar-powered flight, to overcome as many difficulties as possible.
The methods are obviously very different. Both have advantages and disadvantages, so we will just have to wait for the true winner of providing Internet to all. Curious about the more technical theory behind the two methods? Visit the websites of the projects from Google and/or Facebook:
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