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Lantern: A Global Satellite Data Radio
Download digital media even where there is no internet. Weather maps, disaster alerts, ebooks. Free.
Syed Karim
Chicago, United States
$697,552 USD total funds raised
238% funded on January 12, 2015

Lantern is a portable satellite receiver, the only device that constantly receives free data from space, anywhere on Earth.

"For 60 percent of the world's population, regular internet access is about as common as flying cars...But where the internet has failed, the Outernet hopes to succeed." -- Gizmodo

“The Short Wave Radio for the Digital Age.” -- Fast Company

“A Tiny Satellite Dish That Brings Info to the World’s Deadzones.” -- Wired

“Outernet aims to provide data to the net unconnected.” -- BBC

"Billions of people around the world don't have access to the Internet, so the next big thing is trying to connect the world." -- CNN


Lantern Explained


Lantern is an amazing device fed by a stream of data from Outernet's satellite network. 

Lantern continuously receives radio waves broadcast by Outernet from space. Lantern turns the signal into digital files, like webpages, news articles, ebooks, etc, which are automatically saved for on-demand offline access. Just connect to the device's hotspot.

Global. Outernet covers every continent, so you can access continuously updated content wherever you go. 

Free data forever. Because we met our original funding goal, Lantern will receive about 20 MB/day. You never have to pay for data, ever. 

Extremely portable. We have made several design changes, but the final product will be the size and weight of a hardcover book

Solar charged. When power is not available to charge your Lantern, just set Lantern in the sun.

Lantern is NOT a way to access the Internet. Lantern receives a one-way stream of files. You cannot send email or post to Facebook using Lantern. Think of Lantern as being for data what FM radio is for audio or broadcast TV is for video.


Build Your Lantern

We pre-sold almost 5,000 complete Lanterns, shattering our goal thanks to the enthusiastic support of our backers! We are currently in the final design and testing stages. 

Now, we are offering the opportunity to build your own Lantern with the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Receiver Kit. It's everything you need to make your own Lantern, minus the enclosure, solar panel, and USB ports.

The DIY Receiver Kit includes:

  • Custom L-Band Patch Antenna

  • Amplifier

  • Software Defined Radio (SDR)

  • C.H.I.P. single board computer with Outernet software pre-installed

  • Portable Battery


How Lantern And Outernet Work

Outernet is the most innovative and far-reaching information service ever created, and Lantern makes it even more accessible. Here is a quick overview of how the system works:

1. Outernet broadcasts a file around the world over a satellite signal in a process that is similar to what happens with satellite radio, but the content can be in any format.

2. Lantern uses its internal antenna to receive the signal.  The tuner selects the frequency, turning the analog waves into digital bits, and passes the bits to the compute module. At this stage, these bits are turned into digital files, which are all stored in the device's memory.

3. Lantern acts like a local server for the saved content, and emits a WiFi hotspot. Users can connect to this WiFi with any device to access the saved content.

This may sound complicated, but Lantern is really a pretty simple device. The best way to think of Lantern is a cross between an FM radio and WiFi router. It's really that simple. 


Enjoy Content Anywhere


Everyone on Earth can use Lantern. There are many ways to use this versatile device:

  • Download news, weather, books for FREE

  • Access to information, freedom from censorship

  • Consume content anonymously

  • Travel with news, weather, and entertainment wherever you go

  • Create your own media archive


What happens when the next Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy destroys cellular networks? In times of natural disaster or conflict, Outernet still works and delivers disaster updates. No one should face crisis without access to updated information. With Lantern, continuously updated information is always available.


All data consumed on Lantern is anonymous. Access to news, civic information, commodity prices, weather, construction plans for open source farm machinery...anything. Outernet eradicates information poverty and censorship everywhere on Earth. Since Lantern is so small, it can be used discreetly. 


A library in every pocket means digital courseware can be delivered anywhere. From young children learning to adults, everyone can benefit from Outernet’s digital media archive. 

Other ways to use Lantern:

Wi-Fi Library For Your Kids. Kids love their (or your) mobile devices; now give them a free, safe library to explore. You decide what to keep on Lantern -- or add files yourself, so there aren't any surprises.

Travel Smart. News, Maps, Weather... Everywhere. Have you ever landed abroad and not had data? Never again. Lantern is ideal for the sailor, outdoorsman, pilot, soldier... the list goes on.

Share and Collect Files. No need to pass a flash drive around the room. With Lantern, everyone can share and add information whenever you like. Grant users access to your Lantern and you're done. Simple.


The Story Of Outernet, The Creators Of Lantern






4.3 Billion People Lack Easy Access To Information

4.3 billion people on Earth - the combined populations of Europe and the United States TIMES FOUR - do not have access to the Internet. The majority of humanity does not have access to the enormous library of useful information that we take for granted. Books, courseware, weather information, disaster updates, uncensored news, entertainment, language learning software. What if there was another way to give that to everyone on Earth for free?

Enter Outernet.


Buy A Lantern, Change The World


Like the water we drink or the air we breathe, the information we consume feeds the very essence of what it means to be human. Lantern establishes a new baseline of human knowledge. We are not fixing the world for people, we are giving them the information they need to fix it themselves.

When purchasing Lantern through this campaign, you receive a cutting-edge piece of technology and advance the collective potential of our species.

What problems will we solve when every human can educate themselves?

What inventions will we create when knowledge is universally available?

What lives can be saved if healthcare information were shared globally?

What will people read about when their governments can no longer censor information?

Buy a Lantern, support Outernet, and help us find the answers. This campaign is to fund the creation of Lantern and a 20 MB/day broadcast on a new frequency that can be received without a dish. The more money we raise, the more we can do - including launching our own satellites into orbit.


What Could Our Species Accomplish?


Imagine if every person could learn for free. 

Imagine if there were no more dark patches of people without access to information.

Imagine if the lights came on.

Never before in human history has there been an opportunity to raise the bar for everyone at once so dramatically. Outernet is such an inflection point. 


Frequently Asked Questions


Outernet is an audacious project, but it is completely feasible. There are numerous hurdles that stand in our way and we are ready to face them. Here are many of the questions we have received in forums, on Reddit, over social media, and in our inboxes answered by Syed Karim, Outernet's CEO:

Why are you trying to give people free information when millions of people are starving?

When reduced to this simple metric for making a difference, why are any of us doing any of our jobs (except those that are feeding people)? Though, this question gets at a bigger idea of why prioritize information access on the long list of global problems to solve. The subject has been studied extensively, but the first to come to mind is Amartya Sen, who wrote in his book Development as Freedom about this very issue. In one example, he cited the 1974 Bangladeshi famine during which food production was ironically quite high. He points to the failure of governance, rather than a food shortage, as the reason. This is just one example. A better predictor of quality of life is not abundance of resources (see Africa) but the level of freedom enjoyed by the population. When it comes to advancing freedom, there is no better tool than information.

Who operates the Outernet Project? (how many people, which company, how many partners, etc.)

Outernet Inc operates the transmission. We have probably a dozen or so people from both within the company as well as close partners that are integral to making this all work. 

How is the Outernet project financed, and how big is the budget?

We are a private company that has received seed financing by a media-focused impact investment fund: Media Development Investment Fund. 

What is the actual state of the Outernet project? (how many satellites, how many users, in how many areas is Outernet already possible)?

We are on two satellites now, but expect to be on five or six by the end of the year, which will give us fully global coverage. We can currently reach all of North America, Europe, and MENA. We are in the process of acquiring a Sub-Saharan signal at the moment. 

There are projects with similar goals, like Project Loon from Google and Internet.org from Facebook. How are these other projects different from Outernet?

Those are not similar services as they are trying to provide two-way Internet to everyone. That is a commendable goal and we absolutely want them to succeed, but it will also be a fee-based service. Outernet's signal is free to receive. There are also sovereign air space issues with Internet devices, like balloons and drones, inside the atmosphere. Breaking censorship will be difficult in places where a free Internet is unwanted. You also encounter enormous spectrum regulation when the user device goes from being a receiver to a transmitter (it talks back). So you can see they are not competing services, as we are solving a problem for a different segment of the market. 

Does Outernet ever plan to offer Internet service?

Some day we might offer two-way Internet access. But that is independent of our belief that there should always be a bare minimum of broadcast data, just like the advent of Netflix does not mean we should eliminate public television. A one-way data cast ensures anonymity - no one can track what you choose to keep and use from our broadcast. For this reason, a two-way service will not be compatible with Lantern, which is a receive-only device. 

What is your revenue model?

We have several revenue lines, which increase and decrease relative to each other, based on where we are in the company's growth. Those revenue lines are: 

1. Content distribution

2. Project support services

3. Hardware sales

4. Advertising

5. Retainers for communication services

What is the bandwidth used for up and downloads?

Since we are hooking directly into the satellite operator’s infrastructure, our uplink bandwidth is really not measured. For Lantern, the download rate will begin at 20 MB/day. From there, we can unlock different regions as we raise more funds to rent more satellite capacity.

Are you looking to put cubesats into sub-orbital or orbital paths?

Cubesats are one option for owning our own infrastructure. It is simply a platform and there are a couple other form factors with even more heritage that could perform just as well (if not better). Though it makes tremendous strategic sense to eventually own our infrastructure, this is a costly proposition (around $10 million). From the perspective of delivering data to a mobile receiver, we could use both geostationary infrastructure as well as existing LEO assets for a mobile service. Deploying our own constellation across numerous planes reduces the risk that our service will be shut down due to the delivery of content that has been censored by some sovereigns.  

How do you address the 3 week decay rate at 90 miles up in sub-orbit?

We would never deploy to a 90-mile orbit. Our target planes are an equatorial orbit, sun-synchronous orbit, as well as a 60-degree inclination at between 500 and 600 kilometers. The mission duration at that altitude is five years. Early next year, we may be leasing a small satellite that is already at that altitude and it has been operating for 10 years. 

What is the present cost to launch a series of cube sats and who would do so?

Our target price for a cubesat is $100,000 per unit, with another $100,000 allocated to the launch of each satellite. A point to consider, however, is that the determining factor is not the number of cubesats or their sizes, but the data delivered to the ground on a daily basis. The real metric is therefore the cost per daily global megabyte. We could achieve global coverage through as few as 12 satellites to a 600 km orbit. The unit cost of each of those microsatellites is higher than a cubesat, but the mission duration and global coverage is superior. There are actually quite a few variables at play, which make this a somewhat complicated question to answer. But a quick and direct answer to your question is that we could deploy a globally accessible constellation for as little as $6M and do so within 18 months. We have launches already identified. 

What about censorship of the whole concept? Many governments may not like uncontrolled data streams and many are already intercepting everything.

We planned for anti-censorship from the beginning. Our mobile receiver, which I have written very little about, is a frequency agile receiver. This means that if one frequency is jammed, we simply move to an alternative--and can do this across 5 difference channels (or more). Since Outernet is a broadcast solution, the monitoring stations are actually irrelevant, since the reception of broadcast content ensures the anonymity of consumption. Since we use existing spectrum licenses, our anti-censorship plan is all perfectly legal and abides by all restrictions of local jurisdictions. But since we are broadcasting data in a multi-channel, multi-speed, and super duplicated manner, it just makes it hard to selectively censor specific works that we distribute. Of course, a government is always able to continuously jam all of our frequencies (this is a little more difficult for certain bands), but which government wants to be the one that is publicly known for disrupting humanity's public library? My hypothesis is that our global brand equity will offer more resilience to government censorship than any of our technical strategies. 

Did we not answer your question? Visit our forums to see if it has already been answered or be the first one to ask it - others are probably wondering too.
Partnerships
Arrow Certified Technology
Arrow has reviewed this campaign’s electronic and/or software design and verified that it is feasible for manufacturing. Learn more
Perks
SOLD OUT
$149
USD
Lantern Spring Special
***This is $20 less than the normal amount--for a limited time only*** "A Library in Every Pocket." Receive continuous content from space. Stay informed when disaster strikes, and never be off the grid again. You are supporting the creation of Humanity's Public Library. ***Free global shipping is included with this perk.***
522 out of 500 claimed
Ships Worldwide
Estimated October 2015
Estimated October 2015
Get this perk
SOLD OUT
$169
USD
Lantern
"A Library in Every Pocket." Receive continuous content from space, stay informed when disaster strikes, and never be off the grid again. You are supporting the creation of Humanity's Public Library. ***Free global shipping is included with this perk.
201 out of 200 claimed
Ships Worldwide
Estimated August 2015
Estimated August 2015
Get this perk
Partnerships
Arrow Certified Technology
Arrow has reviewed this campaign’s electronic and/or software design and verified that it is feasible for manufacturing. Learn more
Perks
SOLD OUT
$149
USD
Lantern Spring Special
***This is $20 less than the normal amount--for a limited time only*** "A Library in Every Pocket." Receive continuous content from space. Stay informed when disaster strikes, and never be off the grid again. You are supporting the creation of Humanity's Public Library. ***Free global shipping is included with this perk.***
522 out of 500 claimed
Ships Worldwide
Estimated October 2015
Estimated October 2015
Get this perk
SOLD OUT
$169
USD
Lantern
"A Library in Every Pocket." Receive continuous content from space, stay informed when disaster strikes, and never be off the grid again. You are supporting the creation of Humanity's Public Library. ***Free global shipping is included with this perk.
201 out of 200 claimed
Ships Worldwide
Estimated August 2015
Estimated August 2015
Get this perk
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