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Almost half the world’s population has no access to the internet. The pandemic exacerbated this issue as people lost access to a physical workplace.

Most of these people simply cannot afford a broadband connection or have trouble accessing one. WingNet, a Danish start-up, have developed an antenna that allows people to share a single broadband connection. It means that people who are far away from a main router can still go online.

“The Internet affects almost every aspect of society and acts as a powerful economic engine,” says Kasper Svendsen, CEO of WingNet. “Many people do not benefit from this growth because they lack Internet access. This impacts both the economy and quality of life in a broader sense.”

The idea is to treat internet like a public utility. Broadband connections do not generally run at full capacity, which means there is a lot to share. This would allow people to access a single connection and simply be billed for the share of the Internet that they use.

Selling extra bandwidth

The concept works on a mesh-network. Larger buildings often work on mesh-networks where multiple modems share the same connection. Your device can then use an algorithm to jump to the box nearest to you. It’s why your internet generally stays fast on different floors of a hotel.

What WingNet have created is an inexpensive antenna that allows anyone with a broadband connection to create their own wireless network. They can then share that network with neighbors and monetize off of their excess bandwidth. An app records how much internet is used, and then bills each user accordingly.

Testing in Thailand

It is unclear if this idea would work in every country. For one, internet companies may not like people making money off of their own broadband connections. However, in Thailand, they will be able to test its efficacy. Thai people are also working and studying more often from home. According to Svendsen, the Thai government has an official goal to make internet universally accessible.

“They have announced that it is time to meet this goal, and we see our product as a great way of achieving this,” says Svendsen.

WingNet are working with NGOs to test that the product works and that it is being used as envisioned. They will be setting up antennas in Khlong Toei, Thailand’s largest slum, which has roughly 100,000 inhabitants. The hope is to be able to expand to neighboring countries once restrictions allow.