Microsoft announced an ambitious plan to offer broadband connectivity to 40 million people around the globe by 2022, formalising an international expansion of its Airband Initiative.
Launched in 2017, the Airband Initiative originally sought to connect 2 million rural US residents by using unused TV spectrum in the 600MHz band (known as TV white space). While Microsoft also completed a handful of global deployments on a project-by-project basis, it never had an official international mission.
Initial expansion efforts will aim to connect “significant underserved populations” in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa over the next three years. The company said it will continue to focus on accessing TV white space for deployments, but also employ other “innovative technologies” and partner with local service providers to get the job done.
Shelley McKinley, Microsoft’s head of technology and corporate responsibility, noted in a blog: “A wireless technology or a business model that is suitable for connecting customers in one location might not be suitable for connecting customers in another”.
She added “experience has shown us that a multi-stakeholder approach is needed to close the connectivity gap.”