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Free global WiFi to revolutionise Internet access in Africa

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 13 Feb 2020
Dion Chang, trends analyst and founder of Flux Trends.
Dion Chang, trends analyst and founder of Flux Trends.

As companies across the globe race to launch free WiFi services, Chinese Internet technology company LinkSure Network will revolutionise Internet access through its ambitious plan to connect the entire world by 2026.

This was the word from Dion Chang, trends analyst and founder of Flux Trends, presenting the 2020 edition of his “State We’re In” trend briefing, titled: “The Politics of Rage & Polarisation: A Quest for Middle Ground.”

The “State We’re In” is an annual trend briefing by trends research firm Flux Trends that provides an executive summary of trends that are shaping and changing the way we live, work and play.

Discussing technology trends, Chang highlighted the next frontier of WiFi services, which could see free worldwide WiFi access through a single network, by as early as 2026, through a current project called “LinkSure Swarm Constellation System”.

The ambitious plan is an initiative by little-known Shanghai-based LinkSure, which is working on enabling 272 satellites, set at different orbits and heights in order to span the entire globe.

The company says its mission is to use satellite communication services and solutions to solve the problem of Internet access, particularly in areas which are not covered by terrestrial networks.

“Cisco predicted a few years ago that by 2020 there will be seven times more connected devices on the planet than people,” noted Chang. “This means for every human-being there are probably seven devices.

“LinkSure wants to provide free Internet for the whole planet by launching satellites into the atmosphere. In 2019, the company launched the first satellite at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre. This year, it will be launching 10 more satellites of the constellation system.”

LinkSure aims to have a completed network of 272 satellites and data processing application centres by 2026, well on its way to connecting millions of people across the globe.

Almost 4.54 billion people were active Internet users as of January 2020, encompassing 59% of the global population, according to research firm Statista.

Africa is seeing the strongest growth of Internet users, with 39.8% of Africans having access to the Internet.

China, India and the US rank ahead of all other countries in terms of Internet users.

If the LinkSure project becomes successful and available in Africa, Chang predicted the initiative will play an important role in Internet inclusion on the African continent.

“In terms of the concept, while we haven’t seen the project come alive yet, as it’s still in the works, the idea does seem to be practical. Internet connectivity has been declared a human right and this project is expected to have a major impact on connecting Africa.”

The total cost of the LinkSure is reportedly estimated to reach more than $431 million, with funds to be sourced from partners.

The project concept is not new, notes Chang. As the race to connect the globe intensifies, other companies, such as Facebook, Google and SpaceX, are among those that have embarked on similar initiatives, while on a smaller scale.

Last year, SpaceX launched a pair of test satellites called Tintin A and Tintin B into orbit , as part of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious plan to provide broadband Internet connectivity to millions of users across the globe.

Google’s WiFi offering “Google Station” has seen the launch of free WiFi in many parts of the globe. In SA, users in 125 locations across Langa, Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Delft, Elsies River and Philippi in Cape Town have already been connected to Google’s free everyday Internet connectivity.