Space, air-based network needed to reach 2.7b unconnected people
• 25m persons in 114 cities still lack access to basic telephony in Nigeria
Advance in space and satellite technology, combined with evolving wireless connectivity, are essential to connect people, who remain excluded from the digital revolution, according to participants at the recently concluded “Connecting the World from the Skies” forum.
The forum, organised by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and Saudi Arabia’s Communications, Space and Technology Commission, brought radio communication and space industry experts together to explore new ways to enhance global digital connectivity.
ITU Secretary-General, Houlin Zhao, said digital networks and technologies continue to empower and enrich the lives of billions of people worldwide.
Zhao said: “While many parts of the globe are connected, there is still much work to do to bring in the remaining third of the world’s population. Innovative aerial and space-borne communication networks have the potential to advance our efforts to bridge the digital divide at country and global levels.”
Recognising the need to reach the 2.7 billion people still unconnected around the world, the public-private forum focused on technological developments and innovative business models for aerial and space-based connectivity. It also highlighted how regulators and governments are working alongside the industry to unleash untapped potential in today’s 5G networks, as well as in the journey towards 6G.
While it is making efforts to bridge the gap between the served and underserved communities in Nigeria, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said some 25 million Nigerians, which reside in 114 communities are still without basic telephony services. This is even as out of the 1.4 billion people in Africa, there are only 515 million unique subscribers.
At the forum, Governor of the Communications, Space and Technology Commission, Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Altamimi, said access to affordable broadband connectivity should be the norm and not a privilege, adding “more than ever, we need to build bridges between industry and public sector, to enhance collaboration and leverage innovative technology to ensure the global digital economy leaves no one behind.”
“Connecting the World from the Skies” included participants from the public and private sectors, including radiocommunication and space industry innovators, researchers, and policymakers from national regulators and international bodies.
At the high-level opening session, technology ministers discussed the challenges and opportunities of delivering connectivity from the skies with policy and industry leaders. Among the topics covered were the evolution of satellites to provide fixed or mobile connectivity directly to devices, and air-to-ground technology capabilities to bring broadband connectivity to airplanes.
The forum noted that future space- and air-based technologies might require additional radio-frequency spectrum allocations, along with harmonized standards and dedicated regulatory frameworks. All these elements call for accelerated collaboration across sectors.
Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau, Mario Maniewicz, said the forum raised some of the critical issues that ITU members will consider at the next WRC.
“Reaching the unconnected will require an innovative combination of fixed, terrestrial and satellite networks, not only provide service continuity but also to strengthen service availability and provide ubiquitous, seamless coverage everywhere,” he stated.