Facebook is extending its internet.org initiative to users from Africa's remote areas by deviating from the traditional fixed and mobile telecoms networks and turning instead to satellite-sourced Internet connections.
Part of the initiative is the company's recent partnership with Eutelsat, a Paris-based company established in 1977 which is one of the leading and most experienced operators of communications satellites in the world. Beginning in the second half of 2016, the two companies will utilize the capacity of Spacecom's AMOS-6 satellite to beam Internet signals to users' mobile devices. Scheduled to launch towards the end of the year, the said satellite will be reaching parts of East, West and Southern Africa.
"We believe that satellites will play an important role in addressing the significant barriers that exist in connecting the people of Africa," said Internet.org VP Chris Daniels.
According to Eutelsat, the project would provide users with access using "affordable, off-the-shelf" hardware, eventually adding up to the capacity being used by Facebook in areas which lack access to mobile terrestrial networks that are expected to be reliable and fixed.
"Satellite networks are well suited to economically connecting people in low to medium density population areas," said Eutelsat.
The satellite system is just one of the several technology investments that Facebook is pursuing as part of its mission to allow cost-effective broadband access to users who are not yet connected. The company also plans to collaborate with local partners all over Africa in a move to provide services to rural areas by using the joint capacity from satellite and terrestrial-based sources.
All in all, the project aims to serve the most populated areas of sub-Saharan Africa with at least 14 countries to receive the satellite-based Internet service.
Eutelsat, which delivers its satellite coverage services to the majority of users from Russia and Europe, plans to establish a new London-based office in order to spearhead the African initiative. The new branch will be under the leadership of Laurent Grimaldi, founder and former CEO of Tiscali International Network.
"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," said Michel de Rosen, Eutelsat CEO.