Communication network World Mobile is ramping up its operations across Africa following successful tests of low orbit satellites.
The ground-breaking experiments, carried out in the UK and the US, tested the use of Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite network as an option for providing internet to World Mobile’s AirNodes – the network’s internet access points. The connection delivered impressive broadband speeds, latency, and stable connectivity with download speeds of up to 400Mbps.
Low earth orbit (LEO) satellites are among the many technologies available to World Mobile’s blockchain-based network, which adapts its connectivity infrastructure to the needs of each region, allowing it to deliver efficient and affordable connectivity in areas with little or no internet access.
The pilot tests demonstrated that remote connectivity with LEO satellites, which serve as a constellation network, can provide robust Wi-Fi services.
Founded in 2018, World Mobile’s aims from the outset have been to provide affordable connectivity to rural and remote areas worldwide.
Much of the company’s work takes place in Africa – a continent where less than a quarter of the population has access to reliable internet – using innovative satellite and relay technology with stratospheric balloons known as aerostats.
“Aerostats, as used by World Mobile, provide a layer of connectivity that complements LEO satellites, with the advantage that the payload can be changed, modified or repaired by simply lowering the aerostat,” explained Gregory Gottlieb, Head of Aerostat Operations at World Mobile.
“In the future, high altitude assisted balloons operating as platforms can also add a layer between aerostats and LEO satellites that can consolidate data from several aerostats and then backhaul the data via LEO.
“In essence this layered approach can provide the maximum degree of flexibility to ensure the availability of World Mobile services in any jurisdiction, using a range of different spectrum options, all feeding up through each layer seamlessly and transparently to the users on the ground.”
Micky Watkins, CEO of World Mobile, said it was extremely encouraging to see the technology and infrastructure working successfully with Starlink.
“We will conduct further pilot tests using other LEO solutions to see how we can potentially incorporate satellite internet constellations into our offering,” he added.
“They have the potential to dramatically enhance our proposition and accelerate our global rollout.”
The focus of the project over the last four years has been Kenya and Tanzania. In Zanzibar – an archipelago of 1.9 million people – where the average income is USD 1,000 per year, World Mobile is targeting areas where there is minimal or no connectivity.
It is deploying its network of AirNodes and aerostats with a coverage radius of up to 70 km. In addition to rolling out in Tanzania and Kenya, World Mobile is in advanced talks about expanding its network to Mozambique and Nigeria.
One of its recent success stories, however, came from Wales where Sian Richardson, owner of Pencarnan Farm caravan and camping site, connected through one of the pilot tests.
“The World Mobile system was up and running within a matter of days and the Wi-Fi connection it provided was strong and dependable,” she said.
“Having this permanently will have a huge positive impact on our lives and business.”