Coronavirus: Seafarers stuck at sea a humanitarian crisis

The fate of more than 200,000 seafarers who play a crucial role in keeping global trade flowing is being labelled a “humanitarian crisis at sea”.

More than 300 firms and organisations are urging for them to be treated as “key workers”, so they can return home without risking public health.

More than 90% of global trade – from household goods to medical supplies – is moved by sea.

But governments have banned crew from coming ashore amid Covid-19 fears.

Large firms including shipping titan AP Moller-Maersk, oil firms BP and Shell, consumer giant Unilever and mining groups Rio Tinto and Vale, as well as maritime transporters, unions, the World Economic Forum (WEF) and other supply chain partners have signed the Neptune Declaration on Seafarer Wellbeing and Crew Change.

They are calling for all countries to designate seafarers as key workers and implement crew change protocols.

The signees of the Neptune Declaration are warning global leaders that ignoring the risk to crews’ mental and physical wellbeing threatens global supply chains, which are crucial to vaccinating the world from coronavirus.

The firms and organisations hope that world leaders, gathering at this year’s virtual Davos Forum, will heed their call.

“Unified, prompt action from governments and other key stakeholders is needed to protect the lives and livelihoods of the 1.6 million seafaring men and women who serve us all across the seas, and who continue to face extreme risk to their safety and earnings,” said WEF’s head of supply chain and transport Margi Van Gogh.

“By granting stranded seafarers key worker status, and by prioritising vaccine allocation for transport crew, we can prevent a deepening humanitarian and economic crisis.”

According to latest data from the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and international ship owners body Bimco, there are 1.6 million seafarers serving on internationally trading merchant ships worldwide.

Typically, ICS estimates around 100,000 seafarers are rotated every month, with 50,000 staff disembarking and 50,000 crew embarking ships to comply with international maritime regulations, governing safe working hours and crew welfare.

Seafarers usually work 10-12 hours shifts, seven days a week to man ships, on four or six-month-long contracts, followed by a period of leave.

But due to the coronavirus crisis and travel bans brought in by many governments to combat new variants of Covid-19, hundreds of thousands of crew are spending extended periods at sea, far beyond the expiry of their contracts.

For those who have been at sea for months longer than their contract stipulates, there is a growing risk to their mental and physical wellbeing.

“Seafarers are the unacceptable collateral damage on the war on Covid-19 and this must stop,” said ICS secretary general Guy Platten.

“If we want to maintain global trade seafarers must not be put to the back of the vaccine queue. You can’t inject a global population without the shipping industry and most importantly our seafarers. We are calling on the supply chain to take action to support seafarers now.”

Covid vaccines: Casino boss resigns after jumping queue

The CEO of a casino company valued at nearly $2bn (£1.6bn) has quit after he and his wife were charged with misleading authorities to get a Covid vaccine.

Rod Baker, of the Great Canadian Gaming Corp, and his wife Ekaterina had travelled to the remote northern Yukon territory for the jabs.

The region, home to many indigenous people, has a faster vaccination rate than in the rest of Canada, data shows.

The couple had posed as motel workers.

They were only found out after asking to be taken to the airport straight after the vaccination last week in the small community of Beaver Creek, on the border with the US state of Alaska.

“I am outraged by this selfish behaviour,” said Yukon’s Community Services Minister John Streicker.

“We had not been imagining that someone would go to this sort of length to mislead or deceive,” he added.

Meanwhile, White River First Nation Chief Angela Demit, leader of the local indigenous nation, wrote on her Facebook page: “We are deeply concerned by the actions of individuals who put our elders and vulnerable people at risk to jump the line for selfish purposes.”

Mr Baker and his wife were also later fined for failing to self-isolate for 14 days after arriving in Yukon from the city of Vancouver.

Harvey Weinstein: Court agrees $17m payout for accusers

A US bankruptcy judge has agreed a $17m (£12.4m) payout to women who accused disgraced film director Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct.

Weinstein, 68, was convicted last year and jailed for 23 years for rape and sexual assault.

The payout for his victims will come from the liquidation of the Weinstein Co, which filed for bankruptcy in 2018.

The judge overruled an objection from some accusers looking to pursue appeals outside of bankruptcy court.

Judge Mary Walrath said without the settlement, the plaintiffs would get “minimal, if any, recovery.”

The Weinstein Co was set up as an independent film studio with the disgraced Hollywood mogul one of its co-founders.

The company collapsed in late 2017, following widespread claims of sexual misconduct against Weinstein, who was convicted of sexually assaulting a former production assistant and raping an actress.

The US judge said that 83% of sexual misconduct claimants in the bankruptcy “have expressed very loudly that they want closure through acceptance of this plan, that they do not seek to have to go through any further litigation in order to receive some recovery, some possible recompense… although it’s clear that money will never give them that”.

The $17m fund will be divided among more than 50 claimants, with the most serious allegations resulting in payouts of $500,000 or more.

The settlement was put to a vote of Weinstein’s accusers, with 39 voting in favour and eight opposed.

They will have the option to forgo most of their payout under the plan if they want to continue pursuing their claims.

Insurers contributed $35m under the liquidation plan, which also provides $9.7m to the former officers and directors of the Weinstein Co, allowing them to pay a portion of their legal bills over the last several years.

The directors and officers, who include Weinstein’s brother, Bob, also received releases that absolve them of any potential liability for enabling Weinstein’s conduct.

The Weinstein Co sold its assets to Lantern Entertainment, which later became Spyglass Media Group, for $289m.

Why your face could be set to replace your bank card

Sara Stewart strolls into a small Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles and orders a torta, a type of sandwich.

To pay she simply looks at her reflection in a small LCD screen attached to the cashier’s counter. Then to add her preferred amount of tip she flashes a quick peace sign at the monitor.

The entire process takes less than five seconds, and is entirely contactless. Moreover, Ms Stewart doesn’t need to carry her mobile phone or bank card with her, or show any form of identification, or even enter a pin number.

Welcome to the futuristic world of facial recognition payment. It might sound like something from a science fiction movie, but this kind of transaction is already happening millions of times a day across China’s major cities.

With the technology now being introduced in the US, and other countries such as Denmark and Nigeria, are we all going to be using it within a few years’ time? And, are there data security and privacy issues that we should worry about?

Ms Stewart, an 18-year-old university student, says she has no such concerns. “I feel like technology is moving so fast that people don’t even think twice about using something like this.

“Our phones already read our faces, and our faces are already all over the internet, so I don’t think it really makes much of a difference [to someone’s security]. It’s faster, more convenient, and safer… and you don’t have to worry about leaving your phone or cards at home.”

She uses facial recognition payment, via a US tech start-up called PopID. You sign up via its website, by uploading a photograph of your face, which is stored on the firm’s cloud-based system. You then link your account to your bank card.

In addition, you can choose to use PopID’s hand gesture tipping tool. Ms Stewart has set this at thumbs up for 10%, the peace sign for 15%, and the shaka or “hang loose” sign for 20%.

PopID is based in Los Angeles, and is now used by about 70 independent restaurants and cafes across a handful of US cities, mainly on the West Coast.

The firm’s chief executive John Miller says: “Our view is that using your face to pay is no different [than using your phone].

“It’s just another way to identify yourself. The [digital] picture [taken at point of sale] is destroyed immediately, and the data isn’t shared with anyone.”

In fact, he argues that it’s less intrusive than paying by your mobile phone, because a phone can track your location at all times via GPS. He adds that the photos stored by PopID are mathematical maps of unique facial vectors, not actual photographs.

Currently PopID requires the user to temporarily lower his or her facemask, but the firm says it is updating its systems so that this will not have to be done in the future.

Some 7,000 miles (12,000 km) away, in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, another student has facial payment technology on her mind. Ling (who did not wish to share her real name for fear of getting into trouble) says that it is now the only way to buy food from the vending machine in her accommodation block at Sun Yat-sen University.

Unlike Sara in Los Angeles, Ling is far from happy about the roll out of the technology. Concerned about its ever-increasing encroachment into her daily life, she is refusing to use it. Even if that means she cannot buy a late night snack.

“Tech is like a tide,” she says. “There’s no way you can swim against it. But I also want to make a stand of some kind, for as long as I’m able to do so.”

If technology in general is indeed a tide, then the rollout of facial recognition payment technology in China is something of a tsunami.

Almost all (98%) of mobile payments in China goes through just two apps – Alipay (owned by ecommerce giant Alibaba) and WeChat Pay – and both are racing to install their facial recognition systems across the country.

Alipay is spending three billion yuan ($420m; £300m) over three years, and according to Chinese state media, 760 million people will be using facial recognition payments by next year.

Wang Bing, from the Luoyang Vocational College of Science and Technology, in Henan Province, says the roll out has been fuelled by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The experience of Covid was huge in China in terms of bringing people into facial recognition systems,” he says.

He adds that the software and camera systems are so advanced that they are impossible to trick, such as by stealing someone’s photograph. The technology can also differentiate between identical twins.

But will the technology take off in the rest of the world? Brett King, an expert on the future of banking and payment systems, believes it will – unless governments choose to stop it.

New Tech Economy is a series exploring how technological innovation is set to shape the new emerging economic landscape.

The author of a book called Banking 4.0, he says that the exact measurements and features of your face are actually more secure than your account passwords.

“Facial payment is part of the growing digital identity structure…. I appreciate the concerns about privacy, but the reality is that a [face-based] digital identity structure is inevitable for safety and security.

“[Digital] payments, transactions and services are becoming more and more imbedded in our life, and in our world, and that’s definitely going to require biometrics, because passwords are simply not secure enough.”

Mr King adds that many users of Apple phones are already happy to use facial recognition to access their handsets, and that the facial payment systems are just an extension of that.

However, he says US regulators may look at the technology. This comes at a time of increased concern about facial recognition systems in general.

A handful of Democrats in the US Congress want to try to reintroduce a bill this year to prevent the technology being used by federal agencies such as the FBI to identify crime suspects. And there are concerns that facial recognition systems are being used in China to identify people from the Uighur ethnic minority.

PopID’s John Miller says he’s in talks with the main card payment processing companies. They are said to see facial recognition payment as a way of bypassing mobile phone apps such as Apple Pay and Google Pay.

“They don’t want to be dependent on the phone, because Apple is one company that can threaten them,” he says. “So the idea of moving the payment system straight from the card to the face is very appealing to them.”

Yet Mr Miller admits that facial recognition payment is an idea that some will never accept. “There’s a segment of the population that’s never going to adopt it, no matter how much logic you go through about how it compares to the phone. Because for them it’s just psychological.”

Pandemic prompts Super Bowl ad rethink in US

Budweiser has said it will not advertise its beer during the Super Bowl this year, joining a growing number of big brands sitting out the annual American football championship.

The event remains one of the most-watched in the US each year, drawing more than 100 million viewers in 2020.

The advertisements are often as much a conversation-starter as the game itself, sometimes sparking controversy.

Firms say the virus has made finding the right message especially difficult.

Others are grappling with financial hits caused by the pandemic, which has dampened spending on many items, while also casting more than 10 million Americans out of work, resurfacing racial and economic inequalities and sharpening political divisions.

Budweiser’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch, said it planned to reallocate the money it would have spent on a 30-second Budweiser spot during the game to support an Ad Council campaign promoting coronavirus vaccination.

It is the first time the flagship brand will not make a game-time appearance in 37 years.

“This commitment is an investment in a future where we can all get back together safely over a beer”, it said, adding that it would still promote some of its other brands, such as Bud Light, during the game.

On Monday, Budweiser released a full 90-second Super Bowl ad on YouTube entitled “Bigger Picture”, which showed US citizens overcoming pandemic challenges together and aimed to raise awareness about Covid-19 vaccines.

Coke, Pepsi and Hyundai are among the other major names also planning to forego airtime during the broadcast.

Coca-Cola said it had made the “difficult choice” to “ensure we are investing in the right resources during these unprecedented times”. The firm did not advertise during the 2019 game either.

Hyundai cited “marketing priorities” and the timing of upcoming vehicle launches.

Pepsi has also said it would not promote its flagship soda during the game. Instead, it is spending money on an advert airing to promote the Super Bowl halftime show it has sponsored for almost a decade.

Given all the economic, political and health questions of 2020, companies may have felt it was prudent to pull back – especially several months ago, when they would have had to start planning for such a high-profile night, said Kimberly Whitler, professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business

“It’s the biggest night of TV watching and so they have to plan it months in advance,” she said. “There was so much uncertainty that to go and invest in a Super Bowl ad might have actually felt or seemed frivolous at the time.”

The decision goes “beyond finances”, she added. “It’s also, ‘How do we identify the right tone that will match the moment’.”

This year’s Super Bowl will see star quarterback Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers face off against reigning champions the Kansas City Chiefs on 7 February.

Last year, firms spent an average of $5.25m (£3.8m) for a 30-second spot during the championship, driving Super Bowl ad spending to a record $450m, according to Kantar consultancy.

The firm has said its research suggests Super Bowl ads are “typically 20 times more effective” in changing a brand’s perception than a normal advert.

Anheuser-Busch, an official sponsor of the National Football League, is typically one of the night’s top spenders, so the absence of its flagship brand may create its own buzz, said Satya Menon, a Chicago-based managing partner of of ROI practice at Kantar.

“Budweiser in particular is a very established brand … so for them, it’s all about generating love and goodwill and maybe this is another way,” she says.

“They do have a lot of pre-game advertising out there. When people have the expectation that they wil be there and then they don’t see the brand, they’ll start thinking why are they not.”

Meanwhile, the sports showdown still seems to be finding plenty of firms ready to fill spots left by the stalwarts. Names of newcomers include Chipotle and Fiverr, a freelance platform that has seen business soar during the pandemic.

“It doesn’t get any bigger than the Super Bowl from a branding and marketing perspective,” said Fiverr’s chief marketing officer Gali Arnon. “We believe this is a major opportunity for us to introduce the world to Fiverr in a unique and creative way.”

Many of this year’s advertisers are firms coming from the e-commerce sector, which have benefited from the pandemic, Ms Menon said.

And though audience numbers for NFL games have slipped this year, for those firms making their game-night debuts, Ms Menon says she still expects ads to have a big impact – even if the pandemic puts a damper on the traditional Super Bowl parties and other festivities, which can make championship feel like an unofficial national holiday.

“There isn’t very much going on in life, so it will always have that great reach,” she says. “Some of that excitement may not be there, but watching will definitely be there.”

UN: Covid jobs crisis most severe since the 1930s

The pandemic caused an “unprecedented” hit to the global economy last year, destroying the equivalent of 225 million full-time jobs, the United Nations has said.

The crisis caused an 8.8% drop in working hours – four times more than followed the 2008 financial crisis.

The UN said looking at job cuts alone “drastically” understated the damage.

It also warned that recovery remains uncertain, despite hope that vaccines will spur an economic rebound.

Working hours in 2021 are likely to remain more than 3% lower than they were in 2019 – roughly the equivalent of 90 million full-time jobs, predicts the report, by the UN’s International Labor Organization (ILO).

But it cautioned that the downturn could be worse, if vaccine distribution is slow and global governments do not provide the economic stimulus expected.

“The signs of recovery we see are encouraging, but they are fragile and highly uncertain, and we must remember that no country or group can recover alone,” said ILO’s director-general Guy Ryder.

Less than 3% of the world’s workers are living in places with economy-wide shutdowns, compared to a peak of more than 40% last April, the ILO said.

Still, the damage in 2020 was even worse than the ILO predicted last spring, when it estimated that four in five people’s jobs had been affected by full or partial closures and predicted a 6.8% fall in working hours.

“This has been the most severe crisis for the world of work since the Great Depression of the 1930s,” Mr Ryder told reporters in a virtual briefing.

The ILO said roughly half of the hours lost were due to firms cutting back on work.

Employment also dropped by 114 million compared to 2019, as about 33 million people lost jobs, while the rest became “inactive” – either giving up work or looking for a job.

Overall, participation in the labour force dropped by 2.2 percentage points last year, compared to just a 0.2 percentage point drop between 2008 and 2009, the ILO said.

Without government support schemes, the declines amount to a loss of $3.7tn (£2.7tn) in income globally – about 4.4% of overall economic output – which Mr Ryder described as “extraordinary”.

Regions such as Latin America, the Caribbean, southern Europe and southern Asia were particularly affected.

The losses also disproportionately fell on women and young people.

The agency said the rebound in the second half of 2020 appears to have been stronger than expected.

But it is likely to remain uneven, “threatening to increase inequality within and between countries”.

HMRC waives penalty for late filing of self-assessments

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has announced that it will waive fines for self-assessments that miss the 31 January deadline, as long as they are filed online by 28 February.

Typically, not meeting the deadline would result in an automatic £100 penalty.

The tax agency said more than 8.9 million customers have already filed their tax returns.

However, taxpayers are still required to pay their tax bills by 31 January.

Treasury Committee chairman and Conservative MP for Central Devon Mel Stride welcomed HMRC’s announcement: “The decision will provide the flexibility that many individuals and businesses require during this difficult time.”

HMRC said that if possible, self-assessment customers are encouraged to file their tax returns by 31 January, but it understood that some people could find this difficult.

“We recognise the immense pressure that many people are facing in these unprecedented times and it has become increasingly clear that some people will not be able to file their return by 31 January,” said HMRC’s chief executive Jim Harra.

“Not charging late filing penalties for late online tax returns submitted in February will give them the breathing space they need to complete and file their returns, without worrying about receiving a penalty.”

He added that the tax agency could “reasonably assume” that most people had “a valid reason for filing late”, caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

HMRC also emphasised that taxpayers who are unable to pay their tax bill can apply to spread liabilities of up to £30,000 over a period of up to 12 months.

However, they will need to file their 2019-2020 tax return first.

People who have tax bills over £30,000, or who need longer than 12 months to pay their bill, are advised to call HMRC.

Ikea to start selling spare parts for products

Furniture giant Ikea is planning to sell spare parts for its furniture in a bid to scale up its green credentials.

The Swedish firm said it was looking at selling items such as sofa legs and covers and arm rests, in addition to the replacement nuts and bolts it currently offers for free.

Its aim is to prolong the life of its products and dispel the idea that it makes disposable goods.

Ikea said the plans were at an early stage and there was no launch date yet.

Despite trying to make its products last longer, the company said it expected the impact on new furniture sales to be “limited”, arguing that it would help make its products “more accessible”.

It’s the latest move by the firm aimed at trying to make sure its products are used for longer rather.

Last year, it entered the second-hand furniture market, buying back unwanted Billy bookcases, and certain other of its furniture items.

In return for the products, it offers vouchers worth up to 50% of the original price, to be spent at its store.

The company is testing various products, Lena Pripp-Kovac, chief sustainability officer at Inter Ikea, told the Financial Times.

Covid: Teachers not at higher risk of death than average

Teachers were not at significantly higher risk of death from Covid-19 than the general population, Office for National Statistics figures suggest.

Restaurant staff, people working in factories and care workers had among the highest death rates, followed by taxi drivers and security guards.

Nurses were more than twice as likely as their peers to die of coronavirus.

Secondary school teachers may have been at slightly, but not measurably, higher risk than the average.

The ONS looked at death rates from coronavirus in England and Wales between 9 March and 28 December 2020.

It found 31 in every 100,000 working-age men and 17 in every 100,000 working-age women had died of Covid-19.

This equated to just under 8,000 deaths among 20-64-year-olds.

But care workers, security guards and people working in certain manufacturing roles died at more than three times the rate of their peers.

Two-thirds of deaths were among men.

As well as being more likely to be male, working-age people who died of Covid last year had other things in common: they were much more likely to work in jobs where they were either regularly exposed to known Covid cases or working in close proximity with other people more generally.

Many of the highest-risk jobs were also relatively low paid and may be more likely to be casual or insecure, without sick pay, including hospitality, care work and taxi driving.

Among teachers, there were 18 deaths per 100,000 among men and 10 per 100,000 among women.

Breaking that down by role, secondary school teachers appear to have a very slightly elevated risk at 39 deaths per 100,000 people in men and 21 per 100,000 in women.

Per 100,000 men aged 20-64, 31 died in the population as a whole compared with:

Per 100,000 women aged 20-64, 17 died in the population as a whole compared with:

These are illustrative examples, not an exhaustive league table.

The ONS calculated the rate by dividing the number of deaths by the number of workers in each job role.

Because the numbers for secondary teachers were comparatively small – 52 deaths in total – it’s difficult to be certain about their exact risk, but any increase there might be compared with the general population was not considered statistically significant.

However, while teachers were not at higher risk than the average, they did appear to be at higher risk than some other professional job roles, which have seen very few or no deaths.

The ONS excluded from its analysis any occupation that had seen fewer than 10 deaths, and the average death rate for the whole population masks this variation.

The study also covers periods where there were limited numbers of children attending school.

But the figures do tell us teachers didn’t have an elevated risk of the magnitude faced by health and care staff and by lower-paid manual and service workers.

And while these figures tell us the death rates in each occupation group, they do not tell us the jobs are themselves causing more infections.

The ONS looked at age and sex but did not adjust for ethnicity, health or socioeconomic status which might influence an individual’s risk.

ONS analyst Ben Humberstone said: “As the pandemic has progressed, we have learnt more about the disease and the communities it impacts most. There are a complex combination of factors that influence the risk of death; from your age and your ethnicity, where you live and who you live with, to pre-existing health conditions.

“Our findings do not prove that the rates of death involving COVID-19 are caused by differences in occupational exposure,” he added.

This also just refers to deaths, not infections which may result in serious illness.

Some earlier ONS data suggested certain types of teacher may have an increased risk of catching coronavirus, although again the body did not consider this to be statistically significant.

Director of policy for the Association of School and College Leaders teachers’ union, Julie McCulloch, said: “When trying to understand rates of coronavirus-related deaths, there are likely to be many complex factors and we need to be careful not to jump to conclusions about the relative risks of different workplaces.

“What we do know is that, when schools are fully open, education staff are asked to work in environments that are inherently busy and crowded. In order to give them reassurance, and to minimise the disruption to education, it is vital that they are prioritised for vaccination as soon as possible.”

Whether teachers should be prioritised for vaccines has been a matter of debate.

At the moment the programme is being rolled out based on what will save the most lives and prevent the most severe illness.

After the oldest age groups, people with health conditions and frontline staff who are regularly exposed to the virus, the government will have to publish a new raft of priorities.

Vaccines minister Nadim Zahawi has indicated more people could be prioritised on the basis of their job role, including teachers, shop workers and police officers.

Satellites beat balloons in race for flying internet

Satellites – once the poor relation of broadband providers, considered the slowest, most expensive option and a real last resort – have become the hot favourite in the race to connect the world in places land-based internet does not reach.

Ambitious alternatives have bitten the dust.

Last week, Google scrapped its Loon company, set up nine years ago to beam the internet down to rural areas via a network of large balloons but unable to “build a long-term, sustainable business”.

And Facebook abandoned Aquila, its flying-internet project using drones, in 2018.

But satellite-based services, such as Elon Musk’s Starlink, are taking off – in every sense.

Large, relatively low-flying satellite networks have the potential to bring the internet to rural areas and “notspots” anywhere in the world.

And the latest offerings promise high speeds, low latency and weather-proof reliability – eventually.

Starlink, which aims to deliver broadband internet around the world via 42,000 satellites, is already being used by a small number of people in the UK and North America.

And rival service OneWeb, though not yet ready for customers, has resumed launching satellites after being rescued from bankruptcy by Indian conglomerate Bharti Global and the UK government last year.

Another serious competitor, Amazon’s Project Kuiper, plans to launch more than 3,000 satellites of its own.

And earlier this month, Beijing announced measures to support its growing satellite-broadband sector, the South China Morning Post reported..

All that adds up to an awful lot of satellites, which has caused concern among astronomers and stargazers.

Dr Alice Gorman, for example, says there is no doubt these “mega-constellations”, visible chains of satellites, are changing the night sky.

“The mega-constellations are being sold with the idea that satellite broadband is a universal good,” she told BBC News.

“It is important to remember that the motivation for these constellations is not philanthropy but profit

“Satellites are not the solution to everything.

“The lack of internet access in some places is due to the lack of investment in terrestrial infrastructure.”

Samantha Lawler, assistant professor of astronomy, at the University of Regina, in Canada, meanwhile, warned of a “mundane highway of moving lights, obscuring the stars”.

Mr Musk’s response has been characteristically brusque, however.

“There are already 4,900 satellites in orbit, which people notice [about] 0% of the time,” he tweeted.

Some of these services will supply internet direct to customers, others via existing providers such as mobile-phone networks.

But Loon was unable to turn a profit despite having secured significant commercial partnerships with mobile networks in Africa.

And OneWeb remains $1-1.5bn short of funding.

“The biggest challenge will be affordability,” CCS Insight analyst Kester Mann said.

“Space is a huge and risky investment.

“And it may take many years before devices fall sufficiently in price to become appealing to the mass market.

“This will be particularly relevant in emerging markets.”

And that means costs will have to be recouped from consumers.

SpaceX charged $99 (£75) per month for its initial trial offering in North America, plus a one-off $499 fee for the hardware.

And that came with a warning that, at least at first, the service might not always work.

“Pricing is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges,” Mr Mann said.

“If you live in a rural area and you can afford it – particularly if you rely on connectivity for work and have no other options – then it will definitely sell.

“But as a mass-market solution, it will need to come down in price.

“This is particularly relevant for the UK, where people are accustomed to paying much less for their broadband bills than US consumers.”

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