We could do 10 GB per hour, easily. And that's just one transponder. A twin tuner for a set top box costs $8. To a slightly larger dish and a bit less error correction, a receiver could pull down 1 TB a day.
I've worked in many places. There are plenty of off-brand dumbphones in India with wifi and bluetooth. In many places I've been, the poorest people still have two things: a cellphone and access to satellite tv. A satellite receiver in Ghana costs $50. And that's also how much I paid for one in the rural Morocco.
Google Loon is not going to be a free service; it's paid internet--which is important, but $25 a month is still out of reach for many.
I'm open to other ideas for revenue. We have a hard stop on the amount of capacity that we'll sell--no more than 25%. We have several pilots starting next year where the sponsored content is educational material, courseware and such.
A couple of ideas.
I think dredmorbius really covered it well. And I want to emphasize the infrastructure part. What about selling hardware that focused on the receiving endpoint? The target demographics probably have literacy/language issues with the content, so providing dedicated hardware to read text (instead of broadcasting actual audio, saving bandwidth), translate it, and do text-to-speech could be an example of some additional products to sell. Sell an app version too for middle-wealth countries. Selling infrastructure items doesn't create that conflict-of-interest in my mind that paying for content does.
Jumping off of the classifieds idea. What if you charged a flat fee, the same flat fee, for every submission regardless of what it was? If submitters truly have altruistic intentions, then this small flat fee is a small hurdle for the little guys, and probably a dead end for the very wealthy to try and overpopulate the system with whatever they want. So that the pressure is not on you to arbitrarily regulate the income sources. Decouple money from content is my main theme here.
I've never liked one-dimensional voting systems that are simply popularity contests. It's not that hard for a organized group to up-vote their propaganda (one group of many) while the altruistic content submitters are all left by the wayside (many groups of one). What I'd like to see is voting be not for submission, but for classification of content. It could be instructional, news, public service, propaganda, entertainment, etc. Then let your paid submitters be the ones to vote separately on ratios of these categories of content that finally get broadcasted. And only content that has been reviewed and voted for past a certain threshold gets proposed for submission. Right now, looking at the stream, I am already biased AGAINST stuff that is paid. Disclosure of that fact is great obviously, but what if a private org really is producing great content? I'll probably never check it out. A community filtering/classification of the content would put my mind at ease as the same standards of review would apply for paid and free content.
Information is inherently a bit of an odd duck economically speaking. The fact that you're targeting the less-developed 6/7 of the world, generally, means that you're also targeting an other-than-lucrative advertising market. There's also the question of just who it is that you might attract as content promoters -- EDUs is one thing, but if it turns out that you're mostly of interest to those who've got unrest to sell -- whether it's OECD foreign / intelligence offices or third-world mercenaries, then there's a bit of an issue.
Who you accept money from matters in some ways more than what's being sold -- I'd suggest your team sit down and draw up a few short lists of groups or sources whose money you don't consider green.
A few ideas do come to mind:
1. Classifieds. You could do Craigslist to the World. Even a small fee might prove lucrative. All the better if you could target the ads to the regions where they're of most interest (geographic segregation).
2. An infrastructure for other organizations to tap into. It could be that it's the content-distribution network itself that's of value. If you've got a one-way comms channel that could be used by organizations for their own use -- encrypted transmissions (if desired) that only their own users could pick up, this could be a valuable service. Of course, there's still the chance that it's intelligence and/or terror organizations which are interested in your services. The challenge here is that if this is your paying work, it might consume your interest over the public-good components. I suspect there'a a fairly wide class of NGOs and possibly commercial interests who might be interested in such capabilities.
3. Partnering with regional governments. If it turns out that you're the best way to get information through, then (for reasonably benign governments), carrying some of their content might work.
You've got a number of partnerships with national broadcasters (I saw DW on your partners list). Carrying content from such organizations for payment might well work.
The other factor is what your own overhead is. If sufficiently low, you don't need a lot of monetization to be successful. Just enough to cover expenses.
All that said: I really like this idea, it's similar in regards to some I had years back but never really pursued.