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Outernet Inc
Founded February 1, 2014 (2014-02-01) in Chicago, United States
Founder Syed Karim (Entrepreneur)
Area served
Services Digital Media, Aerospace, Internet, Media
Website www.outernet.is

Outernet Inc is a software-defined radio (SDR) and broadcast data company. Outernet sells an SDR receiver that combines an amplifier, radio, and C.H.I.P. computer in a single unit. The company’s goal is to make SDRs accessible to everyone.

Outernet's goal is to provide free access to content from the web through geostationary and Low Earth Orbit satellites, made available effectively to all parts of the world. The project currently uses datacasting conventional geostationary communications satellites in a satellite constellation network. Wi-Fi enabled devices would communicate with the satellite hotspots, which receive data broadcasts from satellites.[1][2]

It received its initial investment from the Media Development Investment Fund, a United States-based impact investment fund and non-profit organization established in 1995 by Saša Vučinić and Stuart Auerbach.


Outernet turned on their first public satellite signal on August 11, 2014.[3] Today Outernet transmits 20 MB per day. Outernet provides instructions for users to build their own receivers and encourages people to do so, then to share their results with Outernet. Outernet's first signal was broadcast over Galaxy 19 and Hot Bird, covering North America, Europe, and parts of the Middle East and North Africa. The company no longer operates a Ku-band service. It delivers content globally through Inmarsat's I4 constellation. The network is primarily focused on a one-way data service, with two-way traffic being a long-term goal of the company.

On October 1, 2014, Outernet released a major update accompanied by a video featuring burning books in an abandoned Detroit automotive factory. The update included a redesign of the Outernet website and the release of Whiteboard, their content suggestion platform that allows anyone to suggest a URL for broadcast. Once a URL is submitted, other visitors may vote on it with the URLs receiving the most votes entering the Outernet broadcast carousel.[4] The Outernet broadcast is broken into three categories: the Queue, Sponsored Content, and the Core Archive.[5] Content in the Queue is decided via votes on Whiteboard as well as requests via the Outernet Facebook page. Outernet plans to expand the avenues through which it is able to receive requests for content. Anyone can view what is being broadcast on Outernet at any time.[4]

According to MDIF, the initial content access includes international and local news, crop prices for farmers, Teachers Without Borders, emergency communications such as disaster relief, applications and content such as Ubuntu, movies, music, games, and Wikipedia in its entirety.[6]

Requests to NASA to use the International Space Station to test their technology were denied in June 2014 due to, as stated by a letter sent by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to the staff working for Outernet, both inaccuracies within the proposition, such as "it is assumed that the NanoLab housing will be provided by the CASIS program outside the budget", and costs ranging from $150,000 to $175,000. This resulted in the CASIS operations review stating in the letter that "the likelihood for mission success as proposed is not probable."[7]

Signal reception[edit]

A device called the "Lantern" (previously known as Pillar), a data receiver and media storage system, is being designed and developed by Outernet that will be a "completely self-contained, high-speed receiver" that is "solar-powered, weatherproof, and creates a wireless hotspot to allow WiFi-enabled devices to access content." [8] The purpose of the Lantern, as stated by Outernet, is to provide free access to the media archive, through Outernet, in high traffic public locations, such as schools.[9]

Another way to access the transmissions sent by Outernet is to build a receiver, which requires certain components, including an L-band antenna, low-noise amplifier, and DVB-T dongle. The data received is stored on some sort of computing device, which then can be accessed when a Wi-Fi dongle is connected to the hotspot. Currently, this method only works with specific components when dealing with the USB satellite tuner and USB Wi-Fi dongles.[10]


The Outernet project is raising funds to expand globally, in order to reach third world countries or populations lacking basic access to the Internet. The amount of funds necessary to kickstart the project was $200,000. As of June 8th, 2015, $628,305 had been raised. However, public participation is still encouraged as the maximum donation listed is $1,000,000,000.[11]


Outernet has stated three specific goals when developing the Outernet: to provide information without censorship for educational and emergency purposes. They have stated that they plan to provide information about "news, civic information, commodity prices, weather, construction plans for open source farm machinery" and other types of information. They also have stated that they will be providing access to "courseware," which includes textbooks, videos, and software. Outernet will be available also when access to regular Internet connection is down for any reason.[6]

Media coverage[edit]

Media coverage over the Outernet has ranged from excitement to skepticism. A CNN video released on February 24, 2014 goes into detail of how the idea seems great, but has many drawbacks due to costs and the feasibility of the project. Other media outlets that have brought up the Outernet include The Washington Post and NBC.[6] Media coverage has also gone into other competing projects that have surfaced, such as Google's Project Loon and Facebook's Internet.org.[12]

There has also been debate over the politics involved in the introduction of the Outernet to the public. Many fears exist over whether "the major telecom companies worldwide will fight the plans for space-based broadcasting of information readily available on the Internet."[13]

A BBC News report summarized Karim's TEDGlobal talk, observing that illiteracy will be a limiting factor for rural adoption.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "'Outernet' Project Seeks Free Internet Access For Earth". Discovery News. 25 February 2014. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  2. ^ "Hundreds of tiny satellites could soon deliver free internet worldwide". RT. 23 February 2014. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  3. ^ Test Signal (press release)
  4. ^ a b official site
  5. ^ https://www.outernet.is/broadcast[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ a b c "Information for the World from Outer Space". Media Development Investment Fund. Retrieved 26 February 2014. 
  7. ^ "Denied by NASA". Media Development Investment Fund. Retrieved 13 October 2014. 
  8. ^ "Outernet Hardware". Media Development Investment Fund. Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  9. ^ "Pillar of Knowledge Program Review" (PDF). Media Development Investment Fund. Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  10. ^ "Installing ORx on Raspberry Pi with Raspbian". Media Development Investment Fund. Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  11. ^ "Bring Outernet to the entire world". Media Development Investment Fund. Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  12. ^ "Facebook Picks Up the Pace in Race to Beam Internet From Above". NBC News. Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  13. ^ "Outernet aims to provide everyone with news and information". NBC News. Retrieved 15 October 2014. 
  14. ^ Camilla Costa (14 October 2014). "Outernet aims to provide data to the net unconnected". BBC Brasil. 

External links[edit]