Microsoft partners with Viasat in a bid to improve global connectivity

US tech giant Microsoft has augmented its Airband initiative, designed to connect the unconnected, by partnering with satellite player Viasat.

They reckon the new partnership will help deliver internet access to ten million previously unconnected people around the world, including five million in Africa. This is apparently the first time Microsoft has incorporated a satellite player into Airband, despite that being one of the most obvious ways of compensating for inadequate terrestrial comms infrastructure. The grand plan is to connect a total of 250 million people by the end of 2025, including 100 million in Africa.

“We believe access to the internet is a fundamental right and that digital skills create and enable economic prosperity for people, businesses and governments,” said Teresa Hutson, Microsoft’s VP of Technology and Corporate Responsibility. “Working with Viasat, we will use satellite to reach remote areas that previously have had few, if any, options for conventional connectivity. Together, we will be able to rapidly scale and expand Airband’s reach, exploring a wider pipeline of projects and new countries where we haven’t yet worked.”

“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,” said Evan Dixon, President, Global Fixed Broadband of Viasat. “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.”

While we suppose pure philanthropy isn’t totally out of the question, the commercial case for Airband is presumably along the lines of similar initiatives from other US tech giants; that increasing general digital engagement ultimately grows their total available market. Access to the internet may well be considered a fundamental right but it’s pretty handy for Microsoft’s business model too


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