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Facebook set to beam free internet via satellite to Africans

London/New York: Social networking site Facebook has announced a partnership with French satellite operator Eutelsat Communications to provide free high-speed internet to get more Africans online by next year.

Scheduled to be launched in 2016, the AMOS-6 satellite is configured with high gain spot beams covering large parts of west, east and southern Africa.

Under a multi-year agreement with global satellite communication company Spacecom, Facebook and Eutelsat will utilise the entire broadband payload on the AMOS-6 satellite and will build a dedicated system comprising satellite capacity, gateways and terminals, Eutelsat said in a statement on Monday.

In providing reach to large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, Eutelsat and Facebook will each be equipped to pursue their ambition to accelerate data connectivity for the many users deprived of the economic and social benefits of the Internet.

“We are going to keep working to connect the entire world even if that means looking beyond our planet,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a blog post. The project is part of Facebook’s ambitious Internet.org project.

Using state-of-the-art satellite technology, Eutelsat and Facebook will each deploy internet services designed to relieve pent-up demand for connectivity from the many users in Africa beyond range of fixed and mobile terrestrial networks.

“Satellite networks are well suited to economically connecting people in low to medium density population areas and the high throughput satellite architecture of AMOS-6 is expected to contribute to additional gains in cost efficiency,” the statement read.

The capacity will enable Eutelsat to step up its broadband activity in Sub-Saharan Africa that was initiated using Ku-band satellites to serve professional users.

Two years ago, Facebook announced Internet.org, an effort to accelerate the rate of connectivity by addressing the physical, economic and social barriers that are keeping people from getting online.

For Facebook, this satellite system represents one of many technology investments to enable cost-effective broadband access to unconnected populations.

It plans to work with local partners across Africa to utilise satellite and terrestrial capacity to deliver services to rural areas.

“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,” Chris Daniels, vice president of Internet.org, said in the 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,” he added.

According to Michel de Rosen, Eutelsat chairman and CEO, “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.”

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