Facebook announced today that it will partner with French satellite operator Eutelsat Communications as part of an initiative to bring internet access to remote areas of sub-Sahara Africa via satellite.
The two companies have reached an agreement with Israeli satellite communication firm Spacecom to utilize the entire broadband payload of its AMOS-6 satellite which is due to launch later this year. The service is scheduled to start in the second half of 2016 and will be available in 14 African countries.
Eutelsat said the deal will enable it to establish a new company base in London to lead its African operations. The company will be headed by Laurent Grimaldi, founder and former CEO of Tiscali International Network, and will focus on serving premium consumer and professional segments.
The move is part of the internet.org initiative that Facebook launched two years ago as a means to bring internet access to the 1 out of every 3 people worldwide who can’t get online. Internet.org looks to improve the rate of connectivity in poorly covered regions by addressing some of the physical, economic and social barriers that stand in the way.
"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," said Chris Daniels, the head of internet.org. "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."
Facebook had planned to spend as much as 1 billion dollars on its own satellite to provide internet services to continents such as Africa, but the plans were scrapped due to concerns over ever spiraling costs. The company is also looking at using drones as a method bringing online services to remote locations.