How Google and Facebook Plan to Connect the Entire World

Google and Facebook want to bring the internet to another 4.6 billion people. Here's how.

Aug 1, 2014 at 8:45AM

Google stock, Facebook stock

This drone could soon be used to provide Internet connectivity around the globe. Credit: Facebook/Internet.org.

If two out of three people in the world don't have access to a technology that's crucial to your business, what's the most logical course of action?

You make that technology available to them, right? Of course, that's easier said than done on a global scale -- but it's exactly what both Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL) are doing with the Internet right now.

That's right: According to Internet.org -- which Facebook was instrumental in launching last summer -- two-thirds of the world's population currently doesn't have access to the Internet. And considering the revenue streams of both Facebook and Google are entirely dependent on Internet-centric products, it's naturally in both companies' best interests to bring the Web to these unreached masses.

So how in the world are they tackling this monumental task?

From the air ...
First, both Facebook and Google have significant initiatives in place to bring the Internet to consumers from above.

Google stock, Facebook stock

Google has reportedly hired engineers from SSL. which built the pictured ViaSat-1 broadband satellite, Credit: Space Systems/Loral,

Last month, for example, The Wall Street Journal reported that Google was set to spend between $1 billion and $3 billion on a project initially involving the launch of 180 small high-capacity satellites orbiting the Earth at relatively low elevation. Google has also hired engineers from commercial satellite manufacturer Space Systems/Loral to work on the project, which is said to include a later phase aimed at potentially doubling the number of satellites involved.

That's not to say all of Google's eggs are in one basket. Last summer, the company launched Project Loon, an experimental effort to use high-altitude load-bearing balloons -- yes, balloons -- to beam Internet access to the ground with speeds at least as fast as today's 3G networks. And in April, Google spent an undisclosed sum to purchase Titan Aerospace -- a manufacturer of solar-powered drones, which, by the way, Facebook was reportedly also considering as an acquisition only weeks before. Titan, for its part, boasts drones that can stay in uninterrupted flight for as long as five years.

In late-March, Facebook had already acquired U.K.-based maker of solar-powered drones (and Titan competitor) Ascenta for roughly $20 million, while simultaneously unveiling new details on what CEO Mark Zuckerberg dubbed his company's "Connectivity Lab." To start, Zuckerberg wrote at the time, the Connectivity Lab team was actively identifying the most effective Internet delivery mediums it could achieve through a combination of drones, satellites, and lasers. 

So what does that mean? Check out this video, which elaborates on Facebook's approach:

... and into your hands
But once it's there, the Internet is of little use without the right hardware and software to take advantage of it, yes? And an ever-increasing number of those accessing the Internet in emerging markets happen to be doing so through mobile devices.

Of the 632 million Internet users in China as of last month, for example, roughly 527 million -- or 83% -- accessed the Web through a mobile device. By comparison, 81% of the total user base accessed the internet using personal computers, marking the first time the number of mobile Web users had overtaken PC Web users in the country.

That's why Google used its I/O conference last month to announce Android One, an Android reference platform aimed at helping OEMs bring ultra-affordable smartphones to emerging markets in a more cost-effective manner. Through Android One, Google wants to reduce manufacturers' costs by identifying the necessary components for such devices, then pre-qualifying suppliers to ensure those components work together properly.

Google stock, Facebook stock

Google will use Android One to bring affordable smartphones to emerging markets, Credit: Google.

Google will also provide access for Android One OEMs on the software side to its Play store to help them add relevant localized apps, and will automatically handle the software updates for these devices to ensure version uniformity. Google plans to roll out the Android One program this fall in India beginning with three partners -- Micromax, Karbonn, and Spice -- and has voiced its intention to bring it global in the coming years. 

Finally, let's not forget Facebook's $19 billion February acquisition of mobile messaging specialist WhatsApp, which requires the aforementioned connectivity as it uses smartphones' data plans. At the time of the acquisition, WhatsApp was adding 1 million users per day to its already-impressive 450 million user base, and Zuckerberg made it very clear that his company's primary goal wasn't to help it achieve near-term profitability, but rather to ultimately allow WhatsApp to "focus on connecting 1, 2, 3 billion people."

Foolish takeaway
Whether some or all of these initiatives actually pan out as Google and Facebook currently envision remains to be seen. But if we know one thing for sure, it's that both companies are plowing an immense amount of time and effort into reaching the untapped reservoir of billions of waiting consumers. In the end, and as the Internet-centric plans of Google and Facebook continue to move forward, it increasingly appears only a matter of time until they succeed. 

Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Facebook, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of fool.com.

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to www.fool.com/beginners, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at www.fool.com/podcasts.

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.


Compare Brokers