Serving "Last Couple of Billion" Customers Will Always Require Subsidies of Some Sort
Internet service providers normally and naturally are most concerned about how to create facilities allowing people to get access to the Internet. App providers normally and naturally are more concerned with the usability of their products under challenging circumstances.
So Google’s Next One Billion Project involves app adaptations for markets where Internet access might be spotty, sometimes non-existent and slow. Offline maps that allow users keep track of where they are going, even with no internet service, are one example.
“Light” searchers that will let users in areas with low connectivity do a streamlined search, as well as save and retry their search for when they can get a better internet connection.
Project Link also uses Wi-Fi as a last-mile access media, not simply an in-building distribution media. That approach--using a platform in a new way, not originally intended--is a recurring theme in communications. Wi-Fi now is a major mobile device access method, cable TV now supports
Of course, it is reasonable to point out that 5G, reliant as it will be on capacity supplied by millimeter wave spectrum, will work far better in urban areas than rural areas.
In large part, that is why Google, Facebook and a number of would-be low earth orbit satellite constellations, as well as the existing medium earth orbit O3b, are set to provide new access platforms.
It is highly possible that mobile networks will “always” have a difficult time sustaining operations in rural areas.
But that is why earning high profits some places, to support money-losing operations in other areas, will remain a key task of business strategy for access providers.
Subsidies are going to be as necessary in the future as they are today. That includes third party mechanisms such as advertising and other two-sided revenue models.