Skylark Wireless is excited to announce that it was selected for a 2018 Microsoft Airband Initiative Grant in order to help bring affordable broadband internet access to under-served communities in rural West Virginia.
The Microsoft Airband Initiative is a multi-faceted program that is bridging the digital divide through technological innovation, activism, commercial partnerships, mentorship, networking, and grant funding focused on early-stage companies. With the help of this grant, Skylark will be deploying its cutting-edge Massive MIMO Television White Space (TVWS) platform in West Virginia to bring true high-speed affordable broadband internet to thousands of people who need it most. Mingo County, West Virginia suffers from some of the worst broadband coverage in the country. In some areas it is even hard to receive satellite connectivity reliably due to the mountainous terrain. The cost to deploy wired systems is prohibitive, and current 4G technologies don’t have the range or capacity to provide affordable broadband connectivity. The broadband challenge in Mingo and surrounding counties is representative of rural areas in general. Within the United States, more than 24 million Americans lack broadband access, including 19.4 million people living in rural areas. In partnership with a local technology company, PackIT, Skylark is piloting its next generation Massive MIMO platform, Faros, which will retrofit unused and unoccupied broadcast television channels for two-way high-speed broadband connectivity in the region. Faros uses state-of-the-art spectrum sharing technologies that will not disrupt existing services. Microsoft’s grant will help install a pilot base station covering thousands of households, with true high-speed broadband internet service targeted to come online to select communities in 2019. We’re thrilled to have such an enthusiastic development partner with Microsoft as we set out to bridge the broadband gap in West Virginia and around the world.