Increasingly, the Internet is a thing of air and invisibility. The International Telecommunications Union estimates mobile broadband connections are growing at a double-digit pace globally, compared to slowing growth of 4.4 percent for fixed networks. Already, there are nearly 2.4 billion mobile broadband subscriptions in the world, ITU believes.
Even among developed nations, where fixed broadband tends to be more prevalent, wireless Internet reigns supreme. Among nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, there were 330 million fixed broadband connections in place at the end of last year, versus 900 million mobile broadband units, according to OECD.
There’s some irony here, given that fixed networks are what we parochially think of in the U.S. when we hear the word “broadband.” In fact, the 85 million or so U.S. residences that are hard-wired to last-mile access networks from the likes of Comcast are a sort of international aberration. For most of the world, high-speed Internet signals rain down invisibly from somewhere overhead. (Where would we be without you, Bruce Leichtman?)
Cellular networks are of course the mainstay, but there are rising (pun intended) players on the scene that could further widen the gap between fixed or wired Internet access networks and those that dispatch signals through the atmosphere.
There is fascinating stuff going on involving exploration of drone aircraft and orbiting balloons as vessels for beaming Internet signals, but the biggest promise and the best real-world implementation examples come from orbiting satellites.
Solid start for U.S. satellites
Even in the…