Global Learning X-Prize

Hi @syed, @Branko and all at Outernet.

I am part of the community over at which I joined to discuss the Global Learning X-Prize and other breakthrough technologies with other interested people.

The prize is a competition to create (primarily off-line) software to teach basic literacy skills.

The topic of your project recently came up and a degree of scepticism was expressed from some quarters.

The X-prize community contains many influential change-makers from around the world and, especially as you are in the process of raising money, I thought it would be a good idea to extend to you an opportunity to address these concerns directly.

For my part, I think the project as described could potentially be very valuable. I suppose the big question I have is - will you really, actually, truly be able to build lantern and turn it on at 2MB/day if you get the money, or is it just a gimmick to attract attention to the wider project?

Hi @richardsmith: Thanks for stopping by. And even more thanks for taking the time to interact with us, especially regarding that point of skepticism.

I am well aware of the Global Learning X Prize. Although Outernet will not be developing its own learning application, we could easily delivery it to far more than the 5000 students that the prize has planned for the finalist stage. By that time, we could broadcast these learning applications to the entire world. Slight tangent: we begin our Sub-Saharan Africa broadcasts at the end of this week. We’ll be on Intelsat’s IS-20.

Is there anyone in particular at X-Prize that I should be talking to?

2MB a day is very doable. As is 10MB per day (it just costs more money). I’ve been dealing with nanosatellite developers and propulsion engineers for the last year and I can guarantee you that broadcasting data to a mobile device is not rocket science (though it does take a small bit of cleverness).

I’m not sure what I can do to allay any concerns that people on the your forum have, but what I can do is point to our current broadcasts and say that a mobile service is really no different; same process and similar technology. In the end, it’s all just radio.

I'm not sure what I can do to allay any concerns that people on the your forum have.

Receiving satellite data from space using a dish is a well understood technology, familiar to most people.

Your proposed UHF/Lband broadcast to tiny mobile devices is quite different and untested technology.

I think many people would like to hear more details about the proposed technology with a rough breakdown of cost per lantern:

RF Module

Compute module

  • $30? Some wifi access point?

Power module

  • $ 5 Lithium? Battery
  • $ 10 1w solar panels?

Manufacturing $2.50?!

Distribution $2.50!?

I realise you are probably not sure about this stuff, but a best-guess back of the napkin budget like the above would allay fears that you haven’t budgeted at all.

Wow! I’m impressed. We’re targeting a 10,000 unit order, if that helps your BOM analysis a little better. The RF module is ~$25 and includes the SL100. The LNB is not part of the RF module, as it is always placed on the satellite dish.

Compute module is also ~$25. We have not made an official commitment to this yet, but we are working hard to support the open source mesh networking out of the box (like Commotion Wireless). This requires the AR71xx chipset. But in the interest of avoiding FCC certification, we’ll need a pre-certified module. This may slightly push up the compute module. But let’s stick to $25 for now.

You’re a little high on the power module; 10,000 units helps bring that cost down. Informed target is ~$10

A couple of items that were not mentioned. I’m not sure I can discuss pricing, but you should be able to figure it out.
–Antenna (internal UHF and L-band from Fractus)

Enclosure: ~$5 is the target
Manufacturing and distribution are about right.

If you do the math, we’re at $80. Not a lot of room for error for a 10,000 unit run. After IndieGoGo takes it’s cut, we are at break even on the Early Bird specials and have about $10 of margin on the $99 perk.

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Thanks @Syed thinking about this I’m a bit confused. It seems like there is $0 profit on each lantern sold, so $0 to contribute to any satellite rental or deployment costs irrespective of how many are sold?

What’s your model here? Are you hoping that the sponsored/ advertising income will be sufficient to pay satellite costs?

Have you got any thoughts on what the maximum proportion of advertising might be? I’d assume you wouldn’t want a service where the 2Mb/10Mb stream of content was 100% advertising? Would you be aiming for 50%? Less? More?

Hi @sam_uk. I can understand the confusion. We have investment capital that will cover (and has covered) the cost of the bandwidth leases. Additionally, the numbers we described above are only for the first 10,000 units. I have NRE factored into some of those costs, so the second 10,000 units allow for a respectable margin. And a 100,000 unit production run gets us to margins that will easily offset bandwidth costs, as well as take care of other parts of operations.

We do, however, already have interest and pipeline for customers who want to pay $10/MB to distribute content, so that also helps to offset satellite capacity.

Yes, we have given a lot of thought to the maximum amount of bandwidth we would allow to be sponsored. That figure is 25%. To reiterate, fully 75% of our bandwidth will be allocated to either the Core Archive or Queue.

Also, at this point it is looking like we are quite likely to start with far more than 2MB per day globally. With just a couple ounces of good luck, the starting figure could very well be 10MB per day.

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