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Advances in technology now mean that there are viable alternatives to terrestrially delivered broadband. Satellite broadband can now be of comparable, if not superior, quality to its wired equivalent. These advances allow even for more latency-dependent applications such as video streaming. This has clear relevance to all of the Broadband Commission’s work, but many policies worldwide do not account for or encourage satellite broadband’s potential. Meanwhile novel delivery techniques, such as high-altitude platforms that include drones, balloons and hybrid craft offer fresh options to policymakers to provide tailored solutions to unconnected areas of differing population densities and geographical features, though they are less understood and tested. 

This Working Group will provide the Broadband Commission with the necessary materials to ensure that the technological barriers to technologies in space and the upper atmosphere come down so that they are better able to deploy resources and close more quickly some of the digital divides.​

Launch of the Report of the Working Group on Technologies in Space and the Upper-Atmosphere
ReportOn the 17th of September 2017, the Broadband Commission Working Group on Technologies in Space and the Upper-Atmosphere launched its final report "Identifying the potential of new communications technologies for sustainable development."  The publication's release in New York, USA coincided with the Annual Meeting of the Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development.

The report found that satellite and high altitude systems offer significant advantages for expanding broadband coverage in developing countries as well as driving solutions essential to meeting the United Nation's 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

The report's findings include:

  1. The technological revolution in space and upper-atmosphere communications, including new technologies such as high-throughput satellites (HTS), massive non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellite constellations, and HAPS systems, is beginning to facilitate broadband capacity around the globe, bringing reliable connectivity to every corner of the Earth.
  2. The ubiquity, reliability, mobility, and improved capability of new satellite and high altitude technologies make them ideal solutions both for expanding the reach of the Internet to rural and remote areas and for contributing new capabilities and applications in urban and suburban areas, to help fully realize the vision of the smart society.
  3. Because of their versatility, space-based and upper atmosphere technologies can work hand-in-hand with terrestrial fixed and mobile systems to help create a ubiquitous 5G ecosystem, which will play an essential role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report's conclusions outline several steps governments, industry, and other stakeholders can take to promote the further development and adoption of space-based and upper-atmosphere communications technologies in the service of development.  Specifically, the report's recommendations focus on three key areas: Spectrum, Regulation, and Promoting Technology.

Download the report ​ ​
​ Objectives
  • ​The Working Group is tasked with identifying the potential of new technologies for communication to stakeholders and providing guidance on best practice.​
  • This group will identify advantages associated with the use of space and the upper-atmosphere technologies and how these technologies can fill gaps in connectivity in underserved countries, particularly in LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS;
  • Assess constraints that prevent countries from fully tapping into Space and the Upper-Atmosphere technologies;
  • Identify countries that benefit or can potentially benefit from these technologies;
  • Identify best practices in policymaking, regulatory tools, and standards by consulting members, NGOs, and government and industry stakeholders;​
  • Recommend to the Broadband Commission and other bodies how countries can use these technologies to connect the unconnected​.
  1. ​​​​​​​​​The group was proposed in New York (USA) in September 2016. ​​

  2. The Group held one meeting (conference call) in December 2016.

  3. The group had​ an onsite meeting at the Broadband Commission Spring meeing 2017 held in Hong Kong SAR of China on 15th March.​

  4. The Working Group on Technologies in Space and the Upper-Atmosphere launched its final report "Identifying the potential of new communications technologies for sustainable development", in New York on the 17th of September 2017​. Read the Press release​.​


  1. ​Inmarsat
  2. Microsoft
  3. ITSO
  6. Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority
  7. ITU
  8. IADB