recommended reading

Coming Soon: Free Internet From Space

Flickr user badastronomy

If all goes according to plan, North Koreans will soon have free, uncensored Internet provided by satellites the size of toaster ovens.

That's part of a project called Outernet, which hopes to launch hundreds of tiny satellites—known as CubeSats—to provide Internet to every person on Earth. Forty percent of the world's people currently don't have access to the Web. In a little more than a year, Outernet plans to have a fleet of 24 satellites operational and testing to pave the way for a globe-spanning network.

The satellites won't be providing conventional Internet right away. They'll initially be used for one-way communication to provide services like emergency updates, news, crop prices, and educational programs. Users will help determine what content is offered.

Outernet, according to its website, "is able to bypass censorship, ensure privacy and offer a universally accessible information service at no cost to global citizens." The project's backers say knowledge is a human right—one they intend to provide even in countries where dictators have thus far limited access. For now, they want to make "a basic level of news, information, education, and entertainment … available to all of humanity."

It will be at least five years before Outernet can offer the more interactive Web as we know it, which allows users to both access information and upload it, said Syed Karim, director of innovation for the Media Development Investment Fund, Outernet's backer.

Worldwide Internet could be available sooner, Karim said, if telecom giants invested in a few mega-capacity satellites like North America's ViaSat-1. Three years and $12 billion is all it would take to get the job done, he estimated. "We don't have $12 billion, so we'll do as much as we can with CubeSats and broadcast data," Karim said.

How much will it cost? Putting a 10x10x10-centimeter payload into orbit runs more than $100,000. A 34x10x10 satellite—the biggest unit Outernet is considering—costs more than $300,000 to launch. Now, multiply that by hundreds of satellites. "We want to stay as small as possible, because size and weight are directly related to dollars," Karim said. "Much of the size is dictated by power requirements and the solar panels needed satisfy those requirements."

To determine the range and size of its global fleet, Outernet will have to determine the gain on its signal. A higher gain would lower the satellite's reach but provide faster speeds. The first fleet's testing will help determine the right balance.

While Outernet's engineers test and prepare for launch, they're seeking support from those who believe in their cause. In addition to traditional donation sources like Paypal, they're also accepting online currencies like bitcoin and Dogecoin (bitcoin blockchains are among the initial services the one-way signals will offer). They're also asking NASA to let them test their technology on the International Space Station.

(Image via Flickr user badastronomy)

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    Download
  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.