The Carnivalesque mode of François Rabelais and Mikhail Bakhtin are both widely known for their grotesque preoccupation with the earthiness of festive forms. For Bakhtin, the Carnival glorifies the lower stratum or the belly as the location of procreation, evacuation, birth, death and disease. Many infirmities and illnesses are inevitably in the belly. In the middle. Including Covid-19, which attacks the tissue of the lungs.  The middle is always a muddle.

From the middle passage of the triangular trade to the middle-mile of digital transformation, problems proliferate. The middle-mile or the sum of multiple ISP Networks; middle managers who are not conduits of concerns of both upward and downward partners in firms; the middle classes who are now experiencing diminished living standards and swelling the ranks of the poor as Covid-19 pushes poverty upwards; students in the middle years of the student life cycle who become imperceptible; and middle school adolescents who resist authority. This imperfect catalogue of sectorial snapshots of conundrums of the middle mimics the bawdiness of Carnivals everywhere. The middle is always where problems lurk, germinate and frolic unnoticed.

Unseen and lesser-known than the last mile counterpart is the middle-mile that is responsible for the heavy lifting of traffic, the bulk of the distance along the internet. The middle-mile is the route made up of the high-capacity IP backbone connections that data traverses every instant as it moves around the world. The middle-mile hands­-off or picks up traffic where it connects with the last mile, preferably at the nearest point-of-presence (PoP) facility to where the data is processed.  The middle-mile is the secret to cloud application performance success.

Pre-Corona internet buyers evaluated key connectivity performance features, such as bandwidth, resilience, price and security in the scrutiny around the last mile. Now it is clear that the route data takes needs to be equally seamless. In 2021, last-mile startups attracted sizable investments. However, the next big wave of VC funding could be to build middle-mile infrastructure.

Although prices have tumbled with time, satellite broadband remains lavish compared to connectivity from terrestrial technologies offering the same speeds. This is particularly relevant for economies, where service providers have to manage with citizens who are less opulent relative to users elsewhere in the world. Satellite connectivity allows communities to get connected rapidly, avoiding the infrastructure placement nuances associated with terrestrial infrastructure deployments.

Satellite broadband is now fast evolving into an even more important technology for addressing the digital divide. The role of satellite connectivity in emergency telecommunications is now vital where the communications satellites are heavily relied upon in disaster recovery efforts. Satellite service may become a default solution for rural communities, allowing terrestrial services to focus on improving connectivity in current coverage areas, and is suitable for network redundancy at national levels for international internet capacity, as well as for backup in backhaul networks.

Middle mile infrastructure is any broadband substructure that does not connect directly to end-users. The infrastructure includes leased dark fibre, backhaul, carrier-neutral internet exchange facilities, carrier-neutral submarine cable landing stations, undersea cables, transport connectivity to data centres, wired or private wireless broadband infrastructure, radio tower access, and other services or infrastructure.

SpaceX’s Starlink, Amazon’s Project Kuiper, OneWeb, and Lightspeed by Telesat are the four main champions that take the spotlight in terms of next-generation Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation deployment for broadband communications. Although the EU, the People’s Republic of China, and the Russian Federation have also announced LEO constellations.

With 4,408 satellites at approximately 550 km above the earth, Starlink is the most advanced. The target is 42,000 satellites for a megaconstellation that provides lower latencies for satellite-to-earth and earth-to-satellite communication. OneWeb has 428 satellites in orbit. In 2022 Bharti-backed OneWeb deployed 34 satellites by Arianespace from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana. OneWeb has already launched two-thirds of its LEO satellite armada. This represents 66 per cent of its planned 648 LEO satellite constellation to deliver high-speed, low-latency global connectivity.

A reliable middle-mile setup avoids congestion and routes traffic effectively around the internet’s core. Managing the middle-mile allows the enterprise to reap the benefits of cost savings, improve agility, enhance route management and cloud connectivity, increase capacity, augment reliability and maintain a level of control from end to end. As the rate of public cloud adoption increases in conjunction with the shifts to digital shelves, digital public services, virtual school and remote work, it is now critical to optimize the middle-mile.

Ahead is a future of untold possibilities and daunting uncertainties. Already, innumerable young adults cannot find a job that fulfils the promise of their education, and that learnedness, once efficacious, has the effect of making them curious and critical. Boundaries are blurred between work and leisure and office and home. In Middle French, the word for work, travail [tra-vie], means torture. What we need to do is abolish torture; we must abolish jobs that stultify the mind, work that is boring, work that makes you into an expert of the repetitive. Millions now do jobs that do nothing to get them out of poverty. Geography remains a struggle but sourcing middle mile offers a promise of fairness.