On this episode of Connected Nation, we ask “what if we could bridge the Digital Divide around the world by 2030?” That means connecting more than three billion people who do not have internet access.
The CEO and Founder of World Mobile says it’s doable but only if we make networks that are “by the people, for the people.” He explains what needs to be done, how it will work, and what this means for the future of broadband connectivity.
Related links: |
International website - https://worldmobile.io/
US website - https://worldmobile.us/
World Mobile’s blog
World Mobile secures license spectrum in the US - https://worldmobile.io/blog/post/world-mobile-secures-licensed-spectrum-in-the-usa
Micky “Mr. Telecom” Watkins’ LinkedIn profile - https://www.linkedin.com/in/micky-mr-telecom-watkins-a17b5b4b/
World Mobile - https://twitter.com/WorldMobileTeam
Micky Watkins - https://twitter.com/MrTelecoms
Jessica Denson (00:08):
This is Connected Nation, an award-winning podcast focused on all things broadband from closing the digital divide to improving your internet speeds. We talk technology topics that impact all of us, our families, and our neighborhoods. Consider this. What if we could bridge the digital divide around the world by 2030? That's the goal of World Mobile. And today I'm talking with the c e O and founder of the company who shares how it can be done, the part each of us can play, and the business model being used that emphasizes economic freedom for all. I'm Jessica Denson and this is Connected Nation. I'm Jessica Denson, and today I'm talking with Mickey Watkins, who is the c e o and founder of the World Mobile Group. Welcome Mickey.
Micky Watkins (00:52):
Hello, Jessica. How are you?
Jessica Denson (00:54):
Hi, I am wonderful. How are you? Tell us, we were chatting right before we got started. Tell our audience where you're calling from.
Micky Watkins (01:02):
I'm calling in from Spain, Barcelona, Catalonia.
Jessica Denson (01:06):
Yeah. And I am just for the sake of the audience located in Louisville, Kentucky, just another modern marvel that we could do this today. I really appreciate you joining us. Before we get to World Mobile's mission, I'd like to talk a little bit about you. I noticed on your LinkedIn that you're listed as Mickey, Mr. Telecom Watkins. Tell me how you got that moniker and share a little bit about your background.
Micky Watkins (01:33):
I did not choose the name myself, Mr. Telecom initially, but I took it on. I've been in the telecom industry for 20 years, bridging digital divides, working on borders, working in the industry overall to make sure that people can have fast, affordable internet for the last 20 years. So I was nicknamed it by a friend of mine and I thought, you know, why not? This is a pretty cool name. So Mr. Telecom, it was,
Jessica Denson (02:00):
Yeah, I loved it. It really, the moment I saw it on your LinkedIn, I was like, well, we're going to talk about that today. So share a little bit about your pedigree though, really dive into it some. I know you've, you've worked for different companies that work in the broadband space or within the technology space. So share with our audience some of what you think has been important that has informed your experience into this point.
Micky Watkins (02:24):
Well, I grew up in a very small village in a place called Somerset County called Somerset. In the United Kingdom, we didn't have internet. The first time we ever had internet. I had a doctor robotics modem plugged into a standard telephone line. I was getting 28 kilobytes a second, but the minute I could get online is the minute that I realized everything is going to change in the world. So that was about 30 years ago now. We struggled, right? There was no A D S L When a D S L came out, there was no fast internet. My mom applied for several different programs for microwave on top of the house and satellite BroadB. And I figured at that time, if I'm struggling this bad, how bad must other people be struggling? And I'm talking 30 years ago now. So I was always fascinated and my younger brother was always fascinated with the internet as well. And we started a telecom business together. He's actually eight years younger than me. I was 20 and he would've been 12 years old when we first started our first world into communications. And we were pretty successful in what we did. Most of our background had initially come from minutes trading of minutes connecting people, but as I saw what could happen and what we could do, I realized that the internet could give us opportunities to take this much further. And the last 20 years, that's all I've been doing.
Jessica Denson (03:49):
So you really learned on the ground. This wasn't something you went to school for. This is something that you learned as the technology advanced?
Micky Watkins (03:56):
Absolutely. This is something that I learned. Google wasn't, there was mama.com, it was different search engines. Someone was trying to win the search engine game at that time. But I learned everything that I possibly could have from the internet and of course from peers that I worked out in different companies or companies that I owned.
Jessica Denson (04:14):
I want to call attention to the fact that you said if we didn't have connection, I was worried that others didn't as well. Where did you get that love of other people and wanting to help other people?
Micky Watkins (04:26):
I felt that internet was such an amazing thing. I mean, the first things that I discovered was music, right? You had Kazam or Shazam, I think it was called at the time, and you had all the torrent downloads and I could see mp3.com and there was no YouTube, there was no anything. And I was a musician. I loved music. I've been playing since I was six years old guitar. And I could just see, and then I could see that if I had not been exposed to this before, the internet and the people in my village, they really didn't have internet. And I would go there and I would download the music and I would take it to their house, and I would work on their Pentium 75, and I would print covers of the albums and I would collect my own music this way. And I figured that everyone else should be able to, but the internet was not a thing that people really thought that they needed. And then as time grew on the grandparents and the parents, they started to get online. So it was just a fascination for me from the very start to see how it could transform my lives. And it was such a positive impact on my life that I wanted everybody to have it.
Jessica Denson (05:34):
So I didn't grow up in the uk. I grew up in the US and there's an issue here for us with the rural areas, with the small towns not having access. When you say a village, is that what you mean? As well as it's a smaller town that doesn't really have as access, like say, London would or a
Micky Watkins (05:50):
Bigger, we had people come to visit us because we lived in a very beautiful countryside, rolling hills, sheep and cow cows, and it was beautiful. But they'd come with their cell phones, the old Nokia, and they'd say, oh, this is so annoying. I can't speak to anybody. And I would stand on top of the hill with their cell phone using their free plants, called my friends. It was such a novel thing to have a cell phone. But yeah, literally no internet, no connectivity at all. You wondered today how we lived back then and we survived, but we just didn't know as much.
Jessica Denson (06:23):
That's interesting. Interesting. Well, let's move now on to World Mobile and where you are now. And this is something that, is this another company that you and your brother founded together?
Micky Watkins (06:35):
Yes, yes. This is something that we founded together along with some other family and some other colleagues that we've been working with for a long time. I initially brought the idea up. It was come from privacy. In fact, I'd been in the telecom industry for a long time. I'd seen what was happening, and I saw that in the quest to be connected, we'd kind of given up our human rights. And I didn't want that to happen for my children or for my friend's children or their future children. So I thought I would bring a privacy solution to life. But then when I realized that not many people were aware of the privacy issue, and when I say privacy, I don't talk about regulators or governments. I talk about the actual mobile network operators, the ISPs. I figured that I was losing a fighting battle, so I probably needed to go to somewhere that people weren't connected.
So I started to look up how many people unconnected on the planet. And to my amazement, I saw that nearly three and a half billion people didn't have internet. So I figured that that was in the emerging markets, that was in Africa, and sure it was, but nearly a billion people in Africa do not have internet, Subsaharan Africa. And then I started to research where are these other 2 billion people from? And I saw United States, Europe, and I started to think, hold on, this can't be right. So contacted the I T U, contacted the G S M A, did whatever research I could because I had the power of the internet and slowly unpicked, okay, this is an endemic problem around the world. Literally half the world is unconnected.
Jessica Denson (08:08):
I mean, that's kind of ironic that yeah, you have the power of that to find out and learn these things where many of us take it for granted that we even have this access. So World Mobile has a unique, I want to say unique that's never been done, but a unique business model in that you, well, the summary on the website is that it's the world's first blockchain mobile operator. Can you explain what that means in layman's terms for someone like me, a comms person, to understand what that means, where people can own part of the network and share and rewards? How does that really work?
Micky Watkins (08:45):
Absolutely. So what do we mean by the world's first blockchain mobile operator? Currently, all telecoms is owned by an oligopoly. There's very little small companies out there, or very little contribution that the every man can make towards building a network to bridge the digital divide. So as I was understanding where these problems existed, and this network was born in Africa, it was born in East Africa, and it was developed and the sharing economy was grown there, I realized that not only did people not have connectivity, they also didn't have identity in many cases. So I started to look up how could I provide identity as well and provide this kind of full solution where somebody could get online and then start to take opportunities into their own hands. So I was looking at a really, really fair way, and if you remember, I just said about privacy, a way that I could kind of prove that we were a mobile network operator that didn't take a data, a mobile network operator that didn't take your money unfairly and not one that you just needed to trust, but one that you could verify that this was true.
So blockchain was kind of in its infancy. Seven years ago, eight years ago, there was Bitcoin and Ethereum was just starting to come out, and I started to look at digital identity, and I thought the only way to really do this is through a blockchain. But as I grew further down the line, I saw Facebook, Microsoft, Google, huge companies that were attempting to connect the unconnected for whatever reasons. I like to think that it was for humanity, but probably also for business. And there's nothing wrong with that, but I saw that they couldn't do this alone. They were all trying very hard. They were all coming out with great innovations, but they weren't succeeding. And these companies have billions and billions and billions of dollars to invest together or alone, and yet they still couldn't fix the digital divide. So I figured that there was an easy solution, an easy answer, and that was for every person who wanted to be able to host infrastructure on the roof or on their balcony in order to be able to support the communities around them.
And that if I could create an incentive where actually people were getting paid for doing this, it could grow. So with the foray into blockchain and understanding about digital identity, I'd always been interested in Bitcoin and self sovereignty, and I thought this makes sense. If I can prove to people that someone's used their radio, one, they're happy, two, I won't get gamed as a company because it's very important, right? If someone's investing into infrastructure, $10,000, $15,000, a hundred thousand dollars for themselves to become their own mobile network operator, a part of a global mobile network, they need to be sure that they get a return on their investment. So blockchain made a lot of sense to me. And then I'd used a lot of software and I'd run a lot of different companies, my own company's family businesses and businesses with friends that were medium scale and the layers of bureaucracy were just crazy.
And then I could see these things called smart contracts that were coming out, and it just made a lot of sense. I could make a much more efficient mobile network operator where people knew where their data was going, where people knew how much they were going to get paid, and where I could eliminate a lot of the layers of bureaucracy. So there it was, and in the very beginning we knew that blockchain would be the differentiator between us and everybody else. And seven years down the line, we're now running blockchain enabled network that nobody has to trust what we say they can actually see.
Jessica Denson (12:15):
So you did mention that at the time when you were researching this that other people didn't necessarily have access to it. So how do you get to those people to get them involved in this? How does someone become part of this sharing economy, as you call it, on your website several times? How did you reach those people that were isolated in many ways because of their lack of access to technology and the internet? Well,
Micky Watkins (12:42):
First of all, we reached the people that were aware, but they weren't aware of how big this problem was. It was an education process. It was like, is it fair that half the world is unconnected? No. Is it fair that we call the internet the global village, when actually it's only half a village? Is it fair that people cannot share their culture, their arts, their love, their passion? Is it fair that every one in two people actually can't jump online and do what we're doing today? Is it fair that people can't take opportunities to join webinars and learn how to code or learn different things? I mean, a great example of this is India. Look at India 15 years ago, 20 years ago, and now look at India today, almost a superpower, almost one of the world's greatest financial powers just landed on the moon and a lot of development and a lot of skill sets.
And if you look at the big CEOs in the big companies, it wasn't like this 25 years ago, and I put that down to providing fast, affordable internet in the 200,000 villages that, for example, Manoj Coley, who is an advisor at World Mobile, he enabled that with his company, with Airtel connected 450, 50 million people, and all of a sudden India was like, boom. So I figured that if I could tell everybody that this was an injustice, the people that could hear and the people that could read and the people that could actually access the information, they may want to be a part of this. They may want to be a part of this one because it's an injustice, but two is because it could be extremely profitable. The telecom industry is in the multi trillions of dollars and is only going up year on year, and telephones in people's hands is becoming more and more frequent. So it was just a way of saying, look, there's an injustice. We can do something about it, but we can also make money whilst doing something good, which I think is kind of a perfect circle.
Jessica Denson (14:29):
Yeah, that's the perfect pitch for anyone who really wants to, I mean, having a job that we care about and do good things in the world, I think is as you said, the perfect circle. And I think all of us at Connected Nation would agree with what you're saying, how important it is for people to have access to these things and that it's very much an inequity in our world. One of the things that you said that I found interesting just on your website was that you want to connect everyone everywhere while advocating for economic freedom and dignity. That's some really powerful language. So I want just for you from your point of view to share why using the word dignity was so important in this.
Micky Watkins (15:11):
Because if you can't take opportunities into your own hand, how can you have your own dignity if you are struggling to connect, if you're struggling to make payments? I mean, if look at Africa, look at the continent, you've got the most mobile money wallets in the world there, yet people have to walk kilometers or wait until they get a bus or cycle to the local town that does have connectivity just to get online and just to either say hi to their mom or to their brother or their cousin or their friend who is living somewhere else and had to move out because they couldn't take opportunities. That's not very dignified. If people have to come to school and then they walk into a school and then they have a center set up by some u s a idea as an example, but there's no internet there and they're just working on the same PC with a broken keyboard without connectivity, learning how to use Microsoft Word, it's cool, but it's not very dignified.
People need to have the opportunity to take control of their own life and to see some people will just use it to watch YouTube. Some people use it to become the next greatest doctor, the next greatest inventor, a businessman or a businesswoman. So I figured that without the internet, of course you can have dignity, but actually the struggle is so deep without fast, affordable internet, how do you really develop? If you look at any one of the nations on the planet, internet has a huge correlation between developed nations and developing nations and successful people and non-successful people. That's not to say that the people that don't want to use internet can't be successful, but it's a damn right easier path if you have the power of the internet, the power of connectivity in your hands. So that's what I mean by dignity.
Jessica Denson (16:55):
Yeah, I think we'd agree. It definitely levels the playing field for a lot of people. Let's talk technology just for a moment, and it's okay to dive deep, and we do have a lot of people that work in the industry that listen to the podcast, so they do understand some of the technology that maybe I don't necessarily understand. But how do you work with people on the ground who may not know the technology yet or do you teach them this? And also I noticed a reference to something called Super Air Nodes, which I've not heard of that. If you could also explain that. So how do you handle helping people understand the technology so they can become a part of this system, the blockchain system as you said, and how do you use super air nodes? What are those? It's a two part question. It's
Micky Watkins (17:41):
Far easier in a connected world, right? Because then you can put some instructions online, people can go to Google or whatever search browser they use, and then they can discover and fill in the gaps themselves. What was very interesting to us and why we wanted to start this in Africa, first of all in East Africa, specifically Tanzania, was because we knew it would be very difficult like playing a video game on extreme harden modes. So we went to the most rural village that we possibly could, a fishing village, and that's where we first set up. It was a very exciting moment for us. We had this idea, we built something that we called an air node, not a super air node. This is a terrestrial on the ground infrastructure. It's a pole that's about two meters, two and a half meters high on there. There's either a plug or a solar array underneath that there's streetlights.
You add that for four or $5, you wouldn't believe the impact it makes, especially on the equator where people don't have infrastructure. Because actually why are people unconnected is they're unconnected because in rural areas, because the infrastructure just simply isn't there. So when we left this air node, which was powered by solar and had second life batteries in it in this village for eight months, we came back, we only left it there for eight months, which was very fortunate for the people, but very frustrating for me because I knew the impact it would make, but I had to wait eight months during the time of covid when nobody could travel to see the impact it made. So the impact that it made was phenomenal. A village that was 130, 150 people big in eight months had grown to 300 plus people. It had one shop.
When we got there, there were two bars and three shops. The fish just being able to connect and get online were able to then trade with the traders and send pictures. And instead of smoking the fish in which you get 10 cents on the dollar, all of a sudden they kept the fish, sent a picture, and were able to tell the trader it was worth your time to come to this village, got this fish and this crabs and this prawns and this catch, right? So the next step was, okay, now I need to teach the villagers how to look after this device because if they look after this device, they can stay like this and they can grow and continue to grow. So very funny story. One, we put two devices, one either side of the bay of the port. When I say port, I'm talking about mud huts built on stilts.
And it wasn't really a port as such. One of the air nodes that we put there, the villagers actually took copper wire, brought it back to their house and back to the shops in order to power a fridge and to power the lights inside the shop. And of course it blew up because it wasn't made for that. So this was like the first learning process. When we got back to the village, said to me, look, we've only got one working. I said, of course you've got one working. You have to look after this device. So I taught them how to look after the device and then we started to get subscribers in that village. And then I said to them, look, if you maintain this device and you keep this device on and you make sure this device doesn't get broken, and if it does, you can contact me through the other device and if not find a way to contact me two miles up the road where they had Apache signal you are going to get paid.
And that was the turning point for that village where they said, okay, we're not going to plug in copper wire anymore. We are actually getting paid for having this device. So the next step was, okay, how do we educate more people on how to look after these devices, install these devices and make these devices work? So we went towards Stone Town in Zanzibar. Stone Town is a very tourist hotspot, but also has remote areas within Stone Town and the area where people can't connect. So we put up the first lot of notes. It is no good trying to teach or run a sharing economy in a place that you have to travel every day for four or five hours. You lose that four or five hours. So we decided that the best thing to do was to find local people in an area that was really accessible or we could set down a team and teach them how to run a sharing economy, teach them how to make installations in their own houses, teach them how to keep these units powered and teach them that every month they're going to get paid for the usage on the infrastructure.
So we fine tuned the Share and economy in Zanzibar. We then took that share and economy to Kenya, to Nigeria, to mainland Tanzania, and then a few other African countries. And that was kind of the starting point where we thought, this is really good. People understand how to run this infrastructure. They're incentivized by the money that they're making. When you have something that you're making money, you value it far more than you're not making money. Think about your house, think about your lawn, think about your car. Unless you're a really good citizen, you don't really go and mow the neighbor's lawn unless they're going to pay you for it. You may do once or twice, but it's not a consistent thing, but you will keep your lawn mowed and you'll keep your car because it's value. It's something that you own. So getting this kind of culture was the most important part and working out what we were doing and what we were doing wrong.
And then the next steps were, okay, so we are the guys and the ladies with all the trucks, we we're providing the fuel, we're providing the manpower, we're providing the employees essentially the opex and the CapEx of the company. Now we need to try this somewhere else where we don't provide the trucks, where we don't provide the cars, where we don't provide the opex and the CapEx. So then we exported that a cookie cutter approach to Pakistan. Pakistan's very interesting, 200 million people plus very heavy usage of internet, a higher average revenue per user than East Africa. And we found a partner, that partner had a fiber backhaul and like magic, but not really magic. This is what we've been planning for the last two years, three years was the cookie cutter approach. They took the model, they took the software and they went out on their own.
And now we have many, many people connected in Pakistan and we have houses that are being converted and people that go door to door in order to provide internet to the street. So Pakistan is a very dense population, less rural, more a lot of people in one area. So houses that belong to this particular cable provider were then converting their internet with permission of the backhaul provider to wifi hotspots, and then people down on the street within a hundred meters, 150 meters, were then able to share the internet connection, contribute to the house's internet payment bill, and in some houses actually make the houses profitable and money as a business and it's taken off like wildfire. And the next step is the step that we're taking now, which is U S A U S A 30% of the landmass is unconnected and around 10% of the population is unconnected.
And there's a huge amount of people in cities in towns that are also underserved by their existing mobile network operator. And that's not because the mobile network operator wants to keep these people offline or wants to not serve these people. It's because legacy infrastructure and legacy business models have left half the world offline. It's an undeniable fact and it's getting harder and harder for mobile network operators to keep up with the demands and it's becoming more expensive and less profitable for mobile network operators to use the same legacy infrastructure as they have been before. We've had five G rollout and it's I think a trillion dollars to roll out five G across the United States of America. Why are we rolling out five G when we've still got so many people UNC connected? It just doesn't make any sense to me. So why are we using these licensed huge towers and renting from tower cos when people have properties and they have rooftops and they have balconies, why are we not using small cell to fill in the Swiss cheese, the knot spots, and why are we not using super air nodes, which I can talk about now in order to provide this kind of rural connectivity?
So I kind of described the terrestrial network on the grounds and then we've got a network in the sky and we've seen the rise of low earth orbit satellites. They have their very cool tech, right? But they have their limitations. They cannot connect the world that's unconnected or the half the world that's unconnected. It's just a physics problem. And although styling have done a great job and before that there was Google and they tried to do a great job with one web. It's not the answer and we think that the answer is probably somewhere at around 20,000 meters in the stratosphere. Google Loon tried this, they tried this with balloons. The problem with balloons is that they float and they move around. They're not self station keeping. They don't keep themselves still. So that technology also isn't ready yet. Although we are part of the HAPS alliance and we are contributing in workshops and work groups to go there and the technology we're building actually is going to be prepared or is prepared for 20,000 meters into the stratosphere.
But there's a sweet spot between 300 meters and 1000 meters where you can have a tethered balloon. My team kill me when I call it balloons, but they're actually official name is called an aerostat because it's in the air and it's static. They're tied down to the ground. They have a trailer on the bottom of them with essentially a server and a switch, some lamp ports and you can plug fiber into them. The fiber then goes up via the tether power goes up via another tether, and all of a sudden you can fit a payload on the bottom of there. Now when you're at 300 meters or 1000 meters, you can see a lot, you can cover a huge amount. Let's say you launch one of these in la, you'd be able to see two or 3 million people and fill in most of the knot spots, but alone, you can't connect 2 million people because you've got weight limitations.
So you could put up a huge, huge balloon, but then all of a sudden it wouldn't become so cost effective. Probably the similar cost to the mobile network operators, but if you put up a smaller aerostat and then you put up a payload though that's about 75 100 kilos on there and you have a omnidirectional multi-user, M I M O, you all of a sudden can have this huge ubiquitous coverage that's then filled in with the terrestrial network on the grounds where the capacity is. And the combination is something that we call a dynamic network. So a network in the sky that's tied essentially a very big tower and then a network on the ground that's run and owned by the people for the people we believe is the solution to connecting the unconnected and serving the underserved.
Jessica Denson (27:51):
I'm glad you brought up the US point because recently we secured spectrum in the us, correct? Just in July a release went out and we're speaking now it's August 30th, so late August, so it's just been two months even. What are your hopes for the US markets? Where are you going first or is that still not yet shared or you're still looking at that?
Micky Watkins (28:12):
So we're there now we've secured set spectrum in four different markets and we're looking at another 30 different markets. We feel we can do several things. One, we feel that we are the best equipped to solve the rural problem with our super air nodes, with the aerostats that are tethered at 301,000 meters. Two, we feel that we can be a great compliment to existing mobile network operators and ISPs to help them with the enormous tasks that they've got to be able to connect to the unconnected and keep the existing people happy. If you look at bandwidth consumption, it grows, capacity is needed around 40% per year. So if you are using 10 gigabytes now next year you'll be using 14 and so on, right? Growing at 40% per year, it's very hard for mobile network operators to keep up with the pace. So we feel that we can not only come out as World Mobile in our own right and bring our own B two C customers to the table, but on a wholesale level and on a partnership alliance level, we can also support the smaller and the bigger mobile network operators by providing them with the capacity.
The people I mentioned earlier, you take Google, Facebook, Microsoft, I commend what they've done. They've done an amazing job. But even with that much money, at and t, Verizon, T-Mobile, even with the money that they've got, they've still left 30% of the landmass unconnected and 10% of the population offline, and they're struggling to keep up with the demands. So there's a multi-use case here for World Mobile one to support existing businesses and the other one is to actually go out and get our own customers, and we're doing both.
Jessica Denson (29:50):
It's exciting. It'll be exciting to see how your process goes as you move into these US markets like that. According to your website, and I've said this in my intro to the podcast, the goal for World Mobile, which is commendable, is to connect everyone by 2030. Now, 2030 sounds like a pie in the skyway out there, but it's actually only seven years away, so in less than a decade, I want to hear from you why you think that's, do you truly feel that's an achievable goal and why do you think so?
Micky Watkins (30:23):
I think it's achievable because for a single company alone, it's not simply not, you can't bring the trucks, you can't bring the vehicles, you can't buy the poles, you can't do this alone. You can't raise the money to go out and do this alone. This is not billions of dollars, this is hundreds of billions. This is trillions of dollars needed. But I think that as people together with the right incentive, we're unstoppable. And I think that we can actually do this for the first time ever and kind of break this, whether it's purpose-built, I'm not here to speculate, but this oligopoly, we can break the problems that exist today by distributing a network, by having the people run that network, by having the people invest in that network and by having the people get paid for running and using that network.
Jessica Denson (31:08):
What do you see on the horizon when it comes to broadband technology? Are you looking ahead for what's next? I know we're talking about connecting those that are unconnected and my C E O, Tom Farry often talks about the idea that there's a new kind of digital divide that's emerging where it's not just whether you're connected or not, but you're getting further and further behind with technology that this is an urgent task that we must take on. In your mind, what is the broadband technology that we should be looking to next and maybe the next digital challenge, so to speak, that we'll be seeing?
Micky Watkins (31:44):
I think there's so much out there that can be used as not being used. I mean, if you look at light, if you look at optics, if you look at the stuff that project Tara, that's come down from the sky from satellites, we are using that in Tanzania. Zanzibar, it works for around 92% of the time in the environment. It struggles and there's rain, but then you can fall back on other things. It's not a one fit all solution. It's about using the technology that's out there that's proven, that's robust, and then making it useful for certain scenarios. And it's about being dynamic. It's about a network that's talked to from the ground and then works in the sky. I think I touched on haps, right, how to do platform. That's probably the future. You can, if it's possible to station keep, which right now there's nothing, the station keeping up there at 20,000 meters.
Yeah, stratosphere is a very hard environment to fly in, but once someone's mastered it, and we are helping to some solutions with our partners, but once someone's mastered that, that's probably the solution. That's probably the way to connect everyone. We estimate that with maybe seven or eight how toru platforms that can carry 400, 500 kilos each, and that can have huge solar panels on the side. You could probably cover certainly with maybe not capacity, but you could every single spot in the United States of America you could cover. So it's just about being dynamic enough not to just go and buy your equipment from Samsung or not going buy your licenses from Ericsson. And telecoms has always been, okay, I bring $200 million, $300 million, $400 million to the table. I save a hundred million dollars for marketing. I invest $200 million in infrastructure and core and licenses, and I build up a network and it's a paint by numbers. Nobody's really taking it to the approach where you can say, okay, we can use multiple different parts. We can use off the shelf hardware. We can use proprietary custom made hardware in combination to solve this problem and make it much easier. And you said 2030, we've got 2,316 days left until 2030 hits. That's not a long time.
Jessica Denson (33:53):
No, it's not.
Micky Watkins (33:55):
I've stood up in front of the United Nations in front of the International Telecommunications Union in front of the G S M A, and I've said the same thing. I don't think any one company on this planet can fix this problem alone. I think that the people running a people powered network for the people is the answer, and allowing them, enabling them to plug in off the shelf hardware that you can buy from $2,000 all the way up until $150,000 and stick that on their roof or stick that in their shop or stick that in the lift or stick that in their building and then broadcast that to people passing by and then making the deals with the big mobile network operators and the small mobile network operators to have bilaterals and to share connection. And then I think shared spectrum is a huge thing.
The US has really led the way with C B R S, but in actual reality, Africa actually came out first with TV whitespace. TV whitespace is what we used to use to connect to television. It was the broadcast signal, and if you remember, you had the big area on your house that had lines on it and that connected and it was a pretty poor connectivity and it gave you a really low resolution picture. But that repurposed all of a sudden is providing connectivity and you call that in the U S A ban 71, right? Ban 71 is worth billions and billions of dollars in the United States of America. Yet we are using that unlicensed spectrum in Kenya for free. So it's regulators, it's technology, it's spectrum sharing, and it's the people. I think that that's the future of broadband.
Jessica Denson (35:34):
I think we would echo that from Connect Nations national nonprofit, that we believe that it takes a lot of people, a lot of partnerships, a lot of creativity, a lot of energy and effort and to work together to do and money, all of that money,
Micky Watkins (35:53):
That's not the most important, but ironically it is. Incentives make people do things and incentives encourage people to do things, and incentives cover people's costs when they do do things. And it's the redistribution of that wealth, of that money back to the people that I think is the answer.
Jessica Denson (36:13):
Do you think, at least in the US the conversation has changed because of the pandemic where before it was seen as having that technology and that access as a luxury or a privilege and now it's really seen as a necessity. Do you see that echoed around the world in relation to the pandemic or no? For sure, for sure, for
Micky Watkins (36:32):
Sure. I think it's become ever more apparent that connectivity can allow us to work from home. Connectivity is going to stop the migration of people from their home countries to stay at home. The e-commerce education platforms, if people can access that, it's a whole different world for them and they don't need to go and look for opportunities elsewhere necessarily. Of course they might, right? You might migrate to somewhere else, but it's not a necessity to run away from your village to go and feed your family and work in a different country all of a sudden when you can pop up a shop and so local goods or pop up a shop and or pop up a website and start to teach people or start selling your music or start taking courses and get online jobs. I think the pandemic for however awful it was, actually showed us that internet is so very important.
My children, we live in Spain. Spain had quite a harsh lockdown and my children couldn't go to school and all of a sudden they were going to school online. And yes, the social part of life they missed, but they didn't miss any education. And actually they've benefited from that in a way that they realize now they can go and study online when they're home rather than before. It was like, okay, I'll go to school. I learn at school. I don't really learn anything at home. So I think we've had a seismic shift. That was probably the only great benefit that came from the pandemic.
Jessica Denson (37:56):
Alright, well, I know you've got a lot of work to do toward that goal, and as we talked about, not a lot of time, so any final thoughts you'd like to leave us with about World Mobile and its mission and what you really want people to take home from this conversation?
Micky Watkins (38:11):
It's not fair that half the world can't speak to the other half of the world. It's not fair that children don't have internet in their house when they leave school. We can actually make the difference and we can get paid for making the difference, whether it's World Mobile or another sharing economy. There aren't many right now, but I'm sure there will be in the future. I hope that you, myself, and everybody involved in this can make a difference and what's making a difference? Get paid the trillions of dollars, their share of that for running a network for the people run by the people.
Jessica Denson (38:43):
Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate it that you joined us today and talking with you.
Micky Watkins (38:48):
Thank you very much and I'd love to come on anytime you invite me, and I'm looking forward to coming to visit you in Kentucky
Jessica Denson (39:00):
Again. We've been talking today with Mickey, Mr. Telecom Watkins, who is the c e o and founder of World Mobile Group. I've included links to the company's websites and other key information in the description of this podcast. I'm Jessica Denson. Thanks for listening to Connect to Nation. If you like our show and want to know more about us, head to connect to nation.org or look for the latest episodes on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Google Podcast, Pandora, or Spotify.