Tech giants like Google and Facebook aren’t the only ones looking into delivering worldwide internet access. Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has revealed forthcoming developments from the latter company that will target internet expansion.
Following the publication of an article from the Wall Street Journal that reported that SpaceX is working to construct and launch a fleet of 700 satellites, each weighing less than 250 pounds, to deliver internet worldwide, Musk tweeted: “SpaceX is still in the early stages of developing advanced micro-satellites operating in large formations. Announcement in 2 to 3 months.” (He also commented that there were several errors in the WSJ’s article, although he did not point out what they were, exactly.)
Musk is known for his innovative technologies that breach new boundaries — his increasingly popular electric cars, for one. But he is also notorious for proposing projects that seem farfetched such as a high-speed transportation system running across California, from San Francisco to Los Angeles using a train called Hyperloop that would cross 350 miles in 30 minutes. He recently courted controversy with his warning against creating artificial intelligence that could possibly surpass human regulation. The Guardian quotes the CEO as saying:
I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful. I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish.
Given Musk’s high profile, and SpaceX’s history of projects in space transport, the company’s satellite project will be watched closely, especially as other tech powerhouses try their hand at spreading internet across the globe. Google has been experimenting with various strategies including blimps over sub-Saharan Africa, and balloons. Facebook has publicized that it is looking into “connectivity aircraft” in order to deliver internet to unserved locations. Microsoft and Samsung have also joined the fray; the former has formed partnerships with rural communities, many in Africa, to bring internet connectivity to schools; the latter is testing solar-powered web connections in Ghana.
As Nicholas Negroponte, co-founder of the MIT Media Laboratory, stated at the Blouin Creative Leadership Summit in September, the biggest hurdle is not getting the next 1 billion users online, it is getting the last billion online. That will be the ultimate test of projects develeoped by Musk and others to expand connectivity.