Microsoft’s Airband expands internet connections in Latin America and Africa

Children standing outside of a school in Latin America
(Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft launched its Airband Initiative in 2017 to help bring affordable broadband to rural areas.
  • In its most ambitious expansion yet, Airband will be partnering with service providers in 9 countries across Latin America and Africa to support expanding broadband services.
  • The partnerships will bring affordable, high speed internet access to 40 million people, a step towards Microsoft's commitment of extending services to 250 million people in underserved areas worldwide.

Microsoft has announced that its Airband Initiative, a collaborative effort with global broadband providers to expand high speed internet access to unserved and underserved areas, will be expanding operations to 9 countries in Latin America and Africa. The partnerships forged between the providers and Airband will provide broadband connectivity to an additional 40 million people in those areas. 

In an official Microsoft blog post written by Vickie Robinson, the general manager for Airband Initiative, detailed how the expanded internet connectivity would improve employment and education opportunities while also addressing societal issues.

Airband Initiative will be partnering with Brisanet in Brazil, the largest market in Latin America, to expand affordable access to more than 11 million people in low-income regions of the country. In Chile, Airband is partnering with the nonprofit organization Fundación País Digital to expand connectivity to the underserved Biobío and Antofagasta regions to train and employ local community members to maintain new networks, bringing internet access to an additional 1 million people by the end of 2025. 

Airband also reports that in Colombia their partnership with Anditel has provided coverage for more than 600,000 people, and that further collaboration between the two companies will include an additional 3 million people, providing high speed internet coverage for 85% of Colombians by 2026. In Guatemala Airband will be partnering with Wayfree with the goal to extend deployment of wireless access zones that will provide an additional 3 million Guatemalans with high-speed internet access.

Through partnering with Microsoft’s Airband Initiative, organizations have additional support to create the infrastructure needed to provide connectivity support in many different ecosystems that ultimately drives self-empowerment and sustainable development and growth. These partnerships are essential in providing local expertise and experience to help achieve a greater goal tied to what can be harnessed with the support of connectivity.

Vickie Robinson, Airband Iniatitive

In Africa, Airband Initiative will be partnering with Kenyan service provider Mawingu to provide coverage to 16 million people across rural areas in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda by the end of 2025. Mawingu was the first rural internet provider to partner with Airband Initiative when it launched in 2017, and since that time the partnership has resulted in the launch of 700 hotspots while also providing connectivity for more than 100 primary schools.  Airband has also partnered with Tizeti in Nigeria to provide coverage to 900,000 people in underserved states.

As part of the expansion, Airband and Tizeti will be providing coverage in Cote d’Ivoire to bring access to an additional 5 million people. Due to an unstable electrical grid in this region, Airband Initiative will also help with the deployment of eight solar powered towers to support the infrastructure necessary to bring internet connectivity to health services, schools, and households alike.

This is not the first of such expansions for Microsoft's Airband Initiative, though it may certainly be among the largest. Previously Airband had expanded through 8 major US cities as well as partnered with Indian ISP Airjaldi to improve rural access and affordability concerns.

Cole Martin

Cole is the resident Call of Duty know-it-all and indie game enthusiast for Windows Central. She's a lifelong artist with two decades of experience in digital painting, and she will happily talk your ear off about budget pen displays.