Increasing web connectivity in the developing world has been a focus of philanthropists, international bodies like the U.N., and individual states alike. But, like most grand visions, wiring entire countries for the Web is expensive. So how does a philanthropist sidestep the massive expense of building and launching a satellite that can beam Internet to remote regions of the world? You wait for a company to go bankrupt, then you buy their brand new communications satellite already in orbit on the cheap.
At least, that's the idea. A philanthropic group called Ahumanright.org (universal Internet is that human right) has launched a site called "Buy This Satellite" that aims to raise $150,000 to bid for Terrastar-1, a school-bus-sized satellite launched in 2008. Terrastar-1 is currently in orbital limbo, so to speak, after its owner filed for bankruptcy. The group will also invest in the development of an open source, low cost modem for use in the developing world.
Once acquired, the group hopes to park the satellite over a developing country or countries--Papua New Guinea, the site points out, has an open orbital slot and only 2.1 percent of its population is online--and allow its citizens access to the Web for free. That, theoretically, will help educate the population, open up new avenues for commerce, and otherwise provide lagging economies with all the technological advantages offered to the wired world.
There are plenty of aspects of the plan that seem easy to poke holes in. For one, satellites generally go for more than $150,000 (even at a bankruptcy auction). And the phase one plan calls for hiring several full-time engineers for the project, but that'll cost $50,000 per year per engineer (and that's only if the engineers are content to work on the cheap)--well, you can see why we might be a bit skeptical.
However, the notion is both noble and ambitious, and we're all about nobility and ambition. If the money can be found, a project like this has the power to seriously affect change in places where connectivity is scarce (if it's available at all). Go to buythissatellite.org to do your part to purchase Terrastar-1. There might just be a T-shirt in it for you.
Let AOL buy it and provide internet for them for 5.99 a month LOL! Lord, I apologize for that there, and...be with the starving pygmies in New Guinea, amen.
WTF PEOPLE!!? arent they traumatized enough!? I'm gonna start a new campeign to SAVE the developing world FROM our internet.
So, this doesn't talk about the AscotII sat that is already up there and is an Open Source learning platform. Of course, it's not over New Guinea.
I am confused as to the viability of this project.
Even after purchasing the satellite you will still need an earth station to potentially provide SOC/NOC operation. You will also need to provide backhaul to provide internet access. These activities could potentially require expensive 24/7 support and the building of significant infrastructure. The overhead on this project will be tremendous, especially given the fact that the business model is to give the services away for free.
If you are going to incur all of these costs and you need the backhaul anyway, why not invest money in ground infrastructure? It would be a longer term solution as the satellite has a relatively limited life due to the batteries and propellant limitations (which will be shortened even further given the need to change orbital slots).
If the goal is a stop gap solution to raise internet awareness first, then why not just lease satellite transponders from satellites already in the region? I believe Inmarsat and Asiasat have satellites with coverage in the region. This would come at a much lower cost as it would require significantly less system management overhead costs as well as forgo the crazy amount of debt interest on acquiring a ~100-400M asset.
Assuming one ignores all the above and you still go ahead with the bid, how far will 150K go in putting together the deal? Once the spectrum, regulatory, and export/ITAR lawyers start getting involved as well as the debt, technical, and business consultants the 150K can be blown through in a matter of days.
Its all just a ploy to sell iphones and blackberrys to poor countries.
I promise no one will be donating those for them to get on the internet.
go ahead and research who and which countries will be getting these services. all just a great way to get cash from a developing government.
Straight up Hustle. Like the carbon tax. Wish I thought of it first.
Ok, let me get this straight. So I'm going to buy a satellite so third world can have free internet, when I have to pay for internet myself? I don't think so....
"In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before.".. Paul Dirac
Exploration1 seems to have quite a handle on the technical needs. I do think it would be a very god opportunity for some schools to incorporate this project into the appropriate courses as some sort of co-op program possibly. That could go a long way in reducing labor costs and would be a valuable teaching tool. Nothing like hands on experience.