Disruptive Internet Access

Internet service providers many places in the world must operate disruptively, simply because they cannot afford to invest as much as has been the case in the tier one service provider business and also typically must operate at challenging levels as well.

That means creating services at vastly lower costs, faster than possible in the past, and sometimes designing networks that operate very differently from networks traditionally built to provide communications services, as well as operating at far lower costs.

None of that is to deride the role mobile service providers are likely to play as providers of widespread Internet access in virtually all markets. But mobile access (coverage) also typically must be augmented by high-capacity access as well.

In some cases, that might mean non-traditional antenna platforms, such as balloons, could be part of the solution. Space Data, for example, has been using such an approach to provide telemetry services to customers in the energy and transportation business.

Space Data also supplies its platforms for military applications. Google reportedly has seen promise in the approach.

Other technologies could be important as well. But some believe the balloon approach could be valuable in developing regions, functioning cheaply, but almost like low orbit satellites.

People have been looking at using balloons for communications for at least a decade.

For some, the approach will be unsettling. The balloons are unguided. They can stay online for perhaps 24 hours before self-destructing. But many disruptive technologies are like that. And the normal path of development is for a disruptive technology that doesn’t offer the full advantages of a legacy technology to progress, gradually adding more and more of the features of the legacy service.

If balloons can create a bigger market for retail Internet access, then the rest of the backbone infrastructure also will improve to meet the demand. And that better backbone infrastructure will allow additional local access platforms to reach commercial thresholds.

That's one element of disruptive Internet access: extending access at a minimum level. The other element is disruption of the high end of the access business. It appears Google will work both ends of the spectrum.
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