Google has thrown its weight behind ambitious plans to bring internet access to three billion people in Africa and other emerging markets by launching at least 16 satellites to bring its services to the unconnected half of the globe. The search engine has joined forces with John Malone, the cable television magnate, and HSBC to set up O3b Networks, named after the “other 3bn” people for whom fast fibre internet access networks are not likely to be commercially viable.
They are ordering 16 low-earth orbit satellites from Thales Alenia Space, the French aerospace group, as the first stage in a $750m project to connect mobile masts in a swath of countries within 45 degrees of the equator to fast broadband networks. Larry Alder, product manager in Google’s alternative access group, said the project could bring the cost of bandwidth in such markets down by 95 per cent. “This really fits into Google’s mission [to extend internet use] around the developing world,” he said. Read more.