Facebook is teaming up with French communications company Eutelsat Communications to provide Internet to unconnected parts of Africa.
In an announcement Monday, the companies said they will use the broadband payload of Spacecom’s AMOS-6 satellite to send Internet services to several countries in West, East and Southern Africa. They will split broadband capacity, delivering it in a way that is optimized for community and individual use via affordable off-the-shelf components. Eutelsat already provides professional-level service in sub-Saharan Africa.
Facebook’s involvement represents another step in its Internet.org initiative to supplement existing and limited terrestrial networks in order to connect billions of people around the world who cannot get online.
A UN report released in September found that three-fifths of the world, 4.2 billion people in total, don’t have regular Internet access. Africa has some of the lowest penetration of Internet connectivity in the world.
Satellite transmission is just one part of Internet.org’s massive plan to connect the world. Facebook is also using lasers to beam broadband from the skies. To that end, it built a massive drone with the wingspan of a Boeing 737 that can circle the globe at an altitude of 60,000 to 90,000 feet.
“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,” Internet.org vice president Chris Daniels said in a statement. “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.”
The geostationary AMOS-6 was scheduled to launch at the end of 2015 and to start sending Internet in the second half of 2016. It will focus on rural areas of medium and low population density.