Facebook and the Paris-based satellite operator Eutelsat have reached a deal to offer Internet access to underserviced areas in Africa — including South Africa — using the entire broadband payload of a new satellite, the Spacecom-built Amos-6, which will be launched later this year.
The two companies said in a statement that they will build a dedicated system comprising satellite capacity, gateways and terminals to provide access to consumers across Africa.
For Facebook, the deal is an integral part of expanding its emerging-markets Internet.org initiative, which it describes as an “effort to accelerate the rate of connectivity by addressing the physical, economic and social barriers that are keeping people from getting online”.
“For Facebook, this satellite system represents one of many technology investments to enable cost-effective broadband access to unconnected populations. Facebook plans to work with local partners across Africa to utilise satellite and terrestrial capacity to deliver services to rural areas,” Facebook and Eutalsat said in their joint statement.
Internet.org vice-president Chris Daniels said: “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.”
The deal comes after Facebook reportedly abandoned plans to build its own satellite at a cost of up to US$1bn.
The Amos-6 geostationary satellite is scheduled to begin operating in the second half of 2016. Its Ka-band payload has been configured with “high-gain spot beams” covering large parts of Southern, West and East Africa.
“The capacity is optimised for community and direct-to-user Internet access using affordable, off-the-shelf customer equipment. According to the terms of the agreement, the capacity will be shared between Eutelsat and Facebook,” the two companies said.
“Using state-of-the-art satellite technology, Eutelsat and Facebook will each deploy Internet services designed to relieve pent-up demand for connectivity from the many users in Africa beyond the range of fixed and mobile terrestrial networks,” they added.
“Satellite networks are well suited to economically connecting people in low- to medium-density population areas and the high throughput satellite architecture of Amos-6 is expected to contribute to additional gains in cost efficiency.”
Eutelsat is establishing a new company based in London that will steer its African broadband business. The company will be led by Laurent Grimaldi, founder and former CEO of Tiscali International Network. — © 2015 NewsCentral Media