Google announced on Thursday its cloud unit has won a deal to supply computing and networking resources to SpaceX, Elon Musk’s privately held space-development company, to help deliver internet service through its Starlink satellites.
SpaceX will install ground stations at Google data centers that connect to SpaceX’s Starlink satellites, with an eye toward providing fast internet service to enterprises in the second half of this year.
The deal represents a victory for Google as it works to take share from Amazon and Microsoft in the fast-growing cloud computing market.
Investors are counting on Google’s nascent cloud business to boost growth in the event that its advertising business slows down. While Google’s cloud business delivered only 7 percent of parent company Alphabet’s total revenue in the first quarter, it grew almost 46 percent year over year, compared with growth of 32 percent for Google’s advertising services.
It’s also an unusual type of deal for Google — or any other cloud provider — as it relies heavily on Google’s internal network that connects data centers, rather than simply outsourcing functions like computing power or data storage to these data centers.
“This is one of a kind. I don’t believe something like this has been done before,” said Bikash Koley, Google’s head of global networking. “The real potential of this technology became very obvious. The power of combining cloud with universal secure connectivity, it’s a very powerful combination.”
“They chose us because of the quality of our network and the distribution and reach of our network,” said Thomas Kurian, CEO of Google’s cloud group.
In SpaceX’s case, there is no need for cell towers. Instead, customers’ devices will communicate to satellites, and then the satellites will link up to Google data centers. Inside those data centers, customers can run applications quickly using Google’s cloud services, or they can send the information on to other companies’ services that are geographically nearby, enabling low latency so there’s minimal lag. Data then comes right back through the Google data centers to satellites, and then down to end users.
The deal could last seven years, according to a person who declined to be named discussing confidential terms.
Starlink’s service might be valuable for consumers living in places with limited internet access, as well as businesses and government organizations running projects in remote areas, Kurian said. He anticipates that having Starlink draw on Google’s cloud network will lead organizations to deploy applications inside Google’s cloud to take advantage of high speeds.
Under the partnership, SpaceX will place its Starlink ground stations within Google data center properties, which can help the service support businesses requiring cloud-based applications.
Starlink is in the process of launching its satellite broadband internet service, which can reach customers without ground-based connections and is one of several space-based systems.
“Combining Starlink’s high-speed, low-latency broadband with Google’s infrastructure and capabilities provides global organizations with the secure and fast connection that modern organizations expect,” said SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell.
“We are proud to work with Google to deliver this access to businesses, public sector organizations, and many other groups operating around the world.”
Urs Hoelzle, senior vice president at Google Cloud, said the tie-up would help ensure “that organizations with distributed footprints have seamless, secure, and fast access to the critical applications and services they need to keep their teams up and running.”
This new capability for enterprise customers is expected to be available in the second half of 2021, the companies said in a joint statement.
SpaceX is seeking regulatory approval for broadband service for both consumers and businesses around the world from thousands of satellites.
Google is not the only cloud provider to be working with Starlink. In October, Microsoft said it was working with SpaceX to bring Starlink internet connectivity to modular Azure cloud data centers that customers can deploy anywhere. SpaceX would still rely on Google data centers in that scenario, a person familiar with the matter said. (Data would travel from the customer’s Azure modular data center through the Starlink satellite to Google’s data center and then out to other cloud services — and return in the opposite direction. Microsoft didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.)
Initially, SpaceX will deploy the ground stations at Google data centers in the U.S., but the company wants to expand internationally, the person said.
SpaceX is one of the world’s most valuable privately held start-ups, having raised money at a $74 billion valuation in February, CNBC reported. Google invested $900 million in SpaceX in 2015. SpaceX has launched over 1,500 Starlink satellites into orbit, and last week the company said more than 500,000 people have ordered or made a deposit for the internet service.
TeamApt Transactions Hit N1.4T In May
Nigeria’s one of Nigeria’s leading fintech companies, Teamapt said it transacted N1.4 trillion ($3.5billion) value in 68 million transactions volume in May 2021 on its agency banking platform.
The data sourced from the monthly report of Shared Agent Network Expansion Facilities (SANEF), an initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to promote agency banking and mobile money in the country, shows that Teamapt controls 74 percent of the total agency banking operations within the period.
The company which is currently leading Nigeria’s agency banking industry provides financial services for the underserved mass market through Moniepoint – its financial access product, and Monnify – its payment gateway infrastructure.
At a media briefing on Thursday in Lagos, officials of Teamapt revealing more of its transaction figures and financial performance for the past months said in less than two years, the company has grown rapidly to operate the largest agency banking platform with a network of over 100,000 agents.
In March 2021, it hit a milestone of transactions worth over N1trillion ($2.4bn) for the first time. In May, the value increased to N1.4 trillion ($3.5bn) with 68 million transactions in volume, and between April 2020 and April 2021, the total value of transactions processed has gone up to $16 billion.
Speaking on the company’s plans to transform financial services in Africa, CEO and founder of TeamApt, Mr. Tosin Eniolorunda said “To achieve our mission of providing financial happiness for all, we started out by building working infrastructure and distributing this in every of Nigeria’s 36 states.
“So far, Moniepoint has served over 25 percent of the 48 million banked Nigerians, previously underserved by the financial system. This is a great feat but we still have a lot of work to do. Many Nigerians are still underserved, and with this pain not exclusive to Nigeria but shared among Africans, we intend to scale into more regions of the continent.
“We remain focused on innovating, and we expect that in the future, through Moniepoint, we will reach more people across Africa and build their trust in the financial system and processes. We look forward to empowering our agents with the facilities to offer other financial services directly to customers, beyond deposits and withdrawals,’’ Eniolorunda added.
TeamApt reiterated its commitment to transform financial services in Africa, the company was founded in 2015 and started out by building infrastructure for tier-one financial institutions.
SEC Plans to Launch Regulatory Incubation Programme For Fintechs
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has announced plans to launch a regulatory incubation (RI) programme for fintech operating or seeking to operate in the Nigerian capital market.
According to a circular published on the commission’s website on Wednesday, June 16, it says that the initiative will be launched in the third quarter of 2021 and will operate by admitting identified fintech business models and processes in cohorts for a one-year period.
The RI program comprises two phases of participation – an initial assessment phase and the regulatory incubation phase.
The SEC said that the categories to be admitted into each cohort will be determined based on submissions received through the fintech assessment form and communicated ahead of each take-off date.
The circular read: “Review of completed Fintech Assessment Forms will continue on an ongoing basis. FinTechs who consider that there is no specific regulation governing their business models or who require clarity on the appropriate regulatory regime for seeking the authorization of the Commission, are encouraged to complete the Fintech Assessment Form.”
The commission maintained that it designed the RI program in order to address the needs of new business models and processes that require regulatory authorization to continue carrying out full or ancillary technology-driven capital market activities.
It will serve as an interim measure to aid the evolution of effective regulation which accommodates the innovation by fintech without compromising market integrity and within limits that ensure investor protection.
Truecaller Launches Smart SMS Feature in Africa
Truecaller, the world’s most trusted and accurate Caller ID and telephone search engine, is rolling out a new feature to further augment the user experience.
The new feature Smart SMS has been introduced based on user feedback and is designed to cater to the evolving needs of our consumers. It offers a host of new services to make day-to-day communication a lot more convenient.
Smart SMS is powered by state-of-the-art machine learning models that adapt based on the feedback you give it. It supports users with important messages from banks, billers, travel companies, delivery companies and so much more.
Smart SMS also helps users stay protected from spam and fraud. Only the essential information within an SMS is highlighted and all SMS messages are categorised and easily accessible. From keeping track of your expenses to last-minute changes to your travel, Smart SMS is the future of SMS that will make life a whole lot easier.
Commenting on the new addition, Zakaria Abdulkadir Hersi, Director of Business Development & Partnerships Africa at Truecaller said: “Roughly 80% of SMSes one receives daily are from businesses, disengaging users from important/useful messages. To combat that, SMS apps need to become smarter by filtering out spam and categorising useful information.
“At Truecaller, we constantly strive to offer the best user experience by adding unique features that fit in with our core mission: to make communication safer and more efficient for everyone. Truecaller has evolved into a powerful communication hub and for the people who wish to use the app to its fullest, we want to streamline the experience as much as possible for an efficient calling and messaging experience for our end user.”
Truecaller uses the same powerful algorithms used to identify spam callers in SMS as well. The SMS intelligence is built into the app itself and it can work offline – nothing leaves your device, including all OTPs, bank SMSes and financial information.
The feature also offers a Smart Inbox that identifies unknown SMS sender numbers and SMS sender IDs are resolved to business names with logos.
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