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Viasat and Microsoft Partner to Expand Global Internet Access

By Rachel Jewett | December 14, 2022

Microsoft Airband’s partners and active projects in Africa. Photo: Microsoft

Viasat is partnering with Microsoft through the Microsoft Airband Initiative to expand internet access in Africa and around the world. Microsoft’s Airband Initiative has a goal to bring internet access to a quarter of a billion people around the world by the end of 2025, and this is the project’s first global partnership. 

The two companies announced Wednesday that they collaborate and pilot technologies with satellites both Geostationary Orbit (GEO) and Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) and fixed wireless. They will work to deliver internet access to 10 million people, including 5 million across Africa. Microsoft said this is the first time it will use satellite connectivity to expand internet access. 

Airband already operates in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States, and this partnership will expand the program to Egypt, Senegal and Angola. The companies said this connectivity will serve telehealth, education, precision agriculture, clean power, and other services. 

“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 vice president 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.”

Microsoft launched the Airband initiative in 2017 and works with local and regional internet and energy access providers, telecom equipment makers and nonprofits, as well as governmental and nongovernmental organizations. The company emphasized that it works with local partners to think “holistically” about what solutions work best for a region. Microsoft said Airband has already delivered high-speed internet access to more than 51 million people, including over 4 million in U.S. rural communities and 47 million outside of the U.S.

The satellite operator applauded Microsoft’s investment in satellite. “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 of Global Fixed Broadband of Viasat. 

Viasat also has a partnership with Microsoft through its Azure Space, with its Azure Orbital ground station service.