(photo credit: SPACECOM)
Facebook has announced a partnership with Israeli satellite company Spacecom and Europe’s Eutelsat to launch a satellite next year to help connect millions of people in Sub-Saharan Africa to the Internet.
“To connect people living in remote regions, traditional connectivity infrastructure is often difficult and inefficient, so we need to invent new technologies,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a post. “As part of our collaboration with Eutelsat, a new satellite called AMOS-6 is going to provide Internet coverage to large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.”
Spacecom will launch the satellite, called the Amos-6, in the second half of 2016 to replace an older model, the Amos-2. The new version will have capabilities “optimized for community and Direct-to-User Internet access using affordable, off-the-shelf customer equipment.” The company estimated the deal, which will go through 2021 with options for extensions, at $95 million.
“Once we had it planned, designed and almost ready to be launched, we heard about Facebook’s ideas, and other large companies as well, to use Satellites to bring the Internet to remote areas,” Spacecom president and CEO David Pollack told The Jerusalem Post.
Satellite networks offer a better way to connect people in remote areas that might not attract physical infrastructure, such as land lines or fiber-optic cables. Eurostat will provide the on-the-ground “gateways” for distributing the connections, which Facebook’s NGO venture Internet.org will facilitate.
In developing countries lacking in IT infrastructure, cellular phones were quick to overtake traditional landlines, and have been used for mobile banking and payments as well as communication.
Increasing Internet access may open up a variety of opportunities to further aid development efforts.
“Connectivity changes lives and communities. We’re going to keep working to connect the entire world – even if that means looking beyond our planet,” Zuckerberg wrote.
According to Pollack, an estimated 14 million users will benefit from the arrangement, which will allow them to set up high-speed Internet connections for homes, businesses, or schools.
Some plans include setting up a central antenna with Wi-Fi capabilities in villages.
Pollack said that the deal was an achievement for Israel.
“What’s important is that this Israeli satellite is used to bring some positive social advantage to Africa, and I think it’s very important beyond economic importance,” he said.
“We are bringing a technological and social message here,” Pollak added.