Microsoft said today that it will partner with Viasat to provide Internet access to 10 million people in different parts of the world who do not have the Internet available to them today. The partnership will be part of the Microsoft Airband initiative to bring broadband to unserved areas.
Microsoft says that the partnership will help it reach its broader goal of making internet connectivity available to 250 million people by the end of 2025.
Viasat is the first satellite company to partner with Airband. Its participation will enhance Airband’s initiatives in the United as well as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Guatemala and Mexico. Plans also include Egypt, Senegal and Angola — three countries in which Airband was not previously involved.
The specific Viasat services that Microsoft will use include geostationary earth orbit and low earth orbit (GEO and LEO) satellites. Today’s press release also notes that the partners will collaborate on fixed wireless as well, but what that likely means is that Viasat will provide backhaul for fixed wireless services.
As part of their efforts to expand internet connectivity, the partners said they will work to boost telehealth, distance learning and education, precision agriculture, clean power and other applications that rely on internet connectivity.
“We’re proud to partner with Microsoft as it represents another important step in bringing affordable internet service across Africa, Latin America and the U.S., as both companies continue to break down barriers to bridge the digital divide and make significant progress toward digital equity and inclusion,” Viasat President, Global Fixed Broadband Evan Dixon said in a press release about the Airband Viasat deal. “Providing internet access to the world is a challenging and bold goal, and doing so in a sustainable and responsible manner will unlock enduring opportunities for those who need it most.”
The Airband initiative was announced in August of 2017. Microsoft said it would work with network operators to use a combination of fixed wireless, fiber broadband and satellite broadband to expand internet connectivity.
The goal that Microsoft set in 2017 was to bring service to 2 million rural Americans by the end of this year. According to today’s release, Airband now provides access to more than 4 million people in unserved rural communities in the United States, illustrating that Microsoft has substantially exceeded its deployment target.
The company also noted that through the Airband program, it has brought service to 47 million people in 16 other countries.