Facebook and Eutelsat to build satellite broadband system for Sub-Saharan Africa
Facebook is building a new Satellite Internet system with Eutelsat with the intention of delivering services to Sub-Saharan Africa as part of its Internet.org initiative.
The social network has presented Internet.org primarily as a charitable venture which aims to “connect the unconnected” by offering free access to some web services to people in the developing in the world.
However the organisation has been controversial, with digital rights groups arguing that this ‘zero rating’ of specific services hands companies like Facebook an advantage over others not involved with Internet.org.
Most recently, Facebook rebranded the free service as ‘Free Basics by Facebook’ in order to separate it from the organisation’s connectivity efforts.
As part of this latest initiative, Facebook and Eutelsat will offer separate services using capacity on Spacecom’s AMOS-6 satellite and hope to launch in the second half of next year. The partners the capacity is suitable for both direct-to-user and community broadband and will work with off-the-shelf customer equipment.
“Facebook’s mission is to connect the world and we believe that satellites will play an important role in addressing the significant barriers that exist in connecting the people of Africa,” said Chris Daniels, vice president of Internet.org. “We are looking forward to partnering with Eutelsat on this project and investigating new ways to use satellites to connect people in the most remote areas of the world more efficiently.”
Eutelsat already offers a ‘Ku-band’ satellite broadband service to professionals in Africa and says the ‘Ka-band’ capabilities of the new satellite will help expand its presence across the continent.
“We are excited by this opportunity to accelerate the deployment of our broadband strategy and to partner with Facebook on a new initiative to provide Internet access services in Africa,” added Michel de Rosen, Eutelsat Chairman. “Eutelsat’s strong track record in operating High Throughput Satellite systems will ensure that we can deliver accessible and robust Internet solutions that get more users online and part of the Information Society.”
Internet.org has considered using drones and lasers to expand coverage to more parts of the world, but reports earlier this year suggested it had abandoned plans to use satellites. In July, the company unveiled a drone with the wingspan of a Boeing 737 as part of project Aquila. The solar-powered plane can stay airborne for 90 days at a time, constantly circling in a two mile radius.