The push for universal Internet access is accelerating, with big-name backers and tech companies pushing various initiatives. Facebook, for example, is testing out drone-distributed Internet access, while Elon Musk’s SpaceX is looking to launch a flotilla of satellites to bring Wi-Fi to remote areas. Then there’s Google.
Google has long transcended its search engine roots to cover just about every facet of the technology realm. In the U.S., the Internet giant continues to roll out its fiber network, while in developing countries it has been testing out ways to ameliorate connectivity using balloons. But Google has also embarked on another path to enhance Internet access in key regions.
Back in 2013, Google announced Project Link, a program that sought to bring “faster, more reliable Internet access to Uganda.” Kicking off in Kampala, the country’s capital and home to some three million people, the fiber network was designed to let any local Internet Service Provider (ISP) or mobile network tap into a more efficient infrastructure. The idea was that these local ISPs could introduce new services such as 4G, and generally get more people online, providing the so-called “last-mile” link into the more expansive long-distance fiber network that connects countries and continents.
As Google prepares to extend Project Link into Ghana, the company is also refocusing its efforts on Kampala with the launch of new Wi-Fi “hot zones” specifically designed to open up public Wi-Fi access and cater to the growing uptake of mobile phones. Google is essentially serving up Wi-Fi access points and other necessary equipment so that local service providers can offer Wi-Fi subscription services to potentially millions of mobile users across the city.
The initiative kicked off yesterday with Roke Telkom, and local users are now able to sign in to “Rokespots,” of which there are 120 across the capital. Google said that it’s currently working with other providers to expand the offering, which can also be offered within cafes, businesses, and private residences using a small tranceiving device.
The race to open up Internet access is very much on, and will make it possible for companies such as Facebook and Google to get newly connected people using their services — from Facebook Messenger to Instagram, Gmail, or Google Maps.