Brazil and SpaceX team up to bring wireless internet to rural areas

By Louise Liu, CNN • Updated 28th January 2020

Brazil is deepening its ties with Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX by developing a partnership aimed at increasing internet access in the country’s rural areas.

Armed with a rocket, a satellite and permission to launch from Brazil’s own territory, SpaceX is currently heading to Sao Paulo to meet with officials from the country’s electric company. It could then transfer its cargo to the world’s largest commercial spaceport, which it plans to inaugurate later this year in southern Brazil.

The so-called “BFR project” is part of an effort by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to slash pollution and expand communications in rural areas, known as “pre-electronic companies.”

Once in operation, the project aims to reduce traffic on Brazil’s roads, boosting productivity and helping farmers increase crop yields. To that end, the nation hopes to replicate Japan’s Switchback program, which converts waste electricity into renewable energy. The country is also hoping to develop a national platform for drones, over which 15,000 applications have already been submitted.

“The new government of Brazil will pursue only those projects and activities that enhance the competitiveness of all of our countries,” Bolsonaro said in a speech last month, adding that all its programs would be implemented in a “transparent and ethical manner.”

It’s not just SpaceX that’s keen to invest in Brazil. The country is also collaborating with Google to develop high-tech urban drones, Wi-Fi networks and a government program to connect communities to the internet. “High-speed internet is one of the main keys to providing a proper life to the people,” Bolsonaro said in a speech last week.

All of these activities will create a “new wave of innovation” that will help lift rural Brazil out of poverty, Bolsonaro said.

“Pre-electronic companies” use solar and batteries to harness renewable energy. Their clients include governments, businesses and the populations of developing countries, including Brazil.

They also use next-generation internet platforms like cloud computing to provide communications and transportation services. It helps companies in rural areas find workers via mobile phones or explore new markets to stimulate economic growth.

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