Outernet: Free WiFi for the World from Outer Space

Shawn Estabilio, Journalist

Tired of not having WiFi? Sick of paying money for your data? Well, worry no more because the Internet may soon be freely available to everyone on the planet!

How can the Internet become free you may ask? It’s through Outernet. What’s Outernet? Outernet is free WiFi being delivered globally from the depths of space! By leveraging datacasting technology over a low-cost satellite constellation, Outernet is able to bypass censorship, ensure privacy, and offer a universally-accessible information service at no cost to global citizens. It’s the modern version of shortwave radio, or BitTorrent from space.

Outernet is simply trying to realize Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 states “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Approximately only 60% of the global population has access to the Internet. The Outernet website says  “The price of smartphones and tablets is dropping year after year, but the price of data in many parts of the world continues to be unaffordable for the majority of global citizens.” Outernet is attempting to provide free WiFi to the rural and remote parts of the world. Places where cell phone towers and Internet cables don’t exist. The primary objective of Outernet is to “…bridge the global information divide.”

By broadcasting data, Outernet would allow people to reduce their reliance on expensive Internet data plans in areas where monthly fees are too expensive for the average person. It also offers continuously updated web content from space bypasses censorship of the Internet. Another benefit of the Outernet is the creation of a global notification system during emergencies and natural disasters. By transmitting digital content to mobile devices, simple antennae, and existing satellite dishes, a basic level of news, information, education, and entertainment will be available to all of humanity.

Although Outernet’s near-term goal is to provide the entire world with broadcast data, the long-term vision includes the addition of two-way Internet access for everyone. For free.

At this point you may be asking just how Outernet would work. Outernet consists of a constellation of hundreds of low-cost, mini satellites in Low Earth Orbit. Each satellite receives data streams from a network of ground stations and transmits that data in a continuous loop until new content is received. In order to serve the widest possible audience, the entire constellation utilizes globally-accepted, standards-based protocols such as DVB, Digital Radio Mondiale, and UDP-based WiFi multicasting.

People from all over the world, through SMS and feature-phone apps, participate in building the information priority list. Users of Outernet’s website also make suggestions for content to broadcast.

The development of prototype satellites, as well as the testing of long range WiFi multicasting, will begin on June 14, 2014. By June 2015, the deployment of Outernet is scheduled to take place.

So let’s all cross our fingers and hope to all get free WiFi by 2015.