By the end of 2018, there were nearly 4 billion people without internet connectivity in the world. Almost 75 percent of the unconnected population is located in 20 countries and is concentrated in rural, low-income and low-literacy areas. Acknowledging its paramount importance, the United Nations now recognizes internet connectivity as an important and basic human need and includes “universal and affordable access to the internet” among its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
To bridge the digital divide and achieve the goal of worldwide connectivity, KAUST scientists are studying aspects of communications infrastructure for enhancing and enabling 6G to provide global access to the internet for all. These emerging and new technologies strike a balance of capital and operational costs as well as performance, including placing free space optics equipment over transmission towers and three-dimensional integrated networks that encompass terrestrial, airborne and satellite communications.