The social network giant, Facebook is on the last stages of its Aquila project; a giant drone with a wingspan equal to the Boeing 737 and weight less than the average car. Facebook is going to use the giant drone to beam down Internet access to remote communities directly from the sky.
The Aquila project will supplement Facebook’s Internet.org program that is currently available across 13 African countries including Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Ghana. Facebook is now in talks with Kenya’s telecommunication companies like Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom Kenya to partner with the social network through the Internet.org initiative.
Chris Daniels, the VP of Internet.org argued the case for Facebook at a media briefing in Nairobi, Kenya saying: “Facebook has made it easier for any mobile operator to sign up for and turn on Internet.org in new countries through a partner portal, this will increase Internet penetration.
Facebook says that the telecoms stand to benefit immensely should they join the initiative given they would be connected to many new Internet users. The Aquila project just comes a few months after the social network opened up its office in South Africa. It will use its South Africa-based office to serve advertisers interest across the African continent. Facebook is said to have a special interest in the Nigerian and Kenya market advertisement space.
Facebook held a meeting back in July in a bid to create public awareness about its Internet.org program. It was then that it revealed its 3-months-non-stop-flying-drone, Aquila to the public. Should Kenyan telecoms decide to join the initiative, it will go a long way in unburdening them the load of contributing the 0.5% of their yearly revenue to the Universal Service Fund (USF). A fund established to help connect marginalized regions.
Otherwise, it will take more than 70 years for the cumulative 0.5% annual contribution from the telecoms to be surmountable enough for the USF to reach its goal of closing the Internet gaps.
Francis Wangusi, the Director General of Communication Authority (CA) of Kenya said the contribution is too little. He was quoted by the Daily Nation saying, “We are coming up with varied interventions that will speed up the fund.”
Facebook’s plan could achieve this goal in a much shorter period, if it will get the support, it is looking for from the Kenya telecoms. It would be interesting to see how Facebook’s wooing of Kenyan telecoms pans out. Not forgetting that the telecoms have in the past termed the social network as one of the Over the Top (OTT) service providers.
Safaricom and Airtel Kenya has already implored the ICT Ministry to intervene, arguing OTT players are eating up into their voice and SMS revenues. Despite the fact that they neither pay taxes in Kenya, nor lay down the telecommunications infrastructure, yet they are making money off the Kenyan consumers.