In an announcement this week, the social media giant said Facebook would be using aircraft, lasers and drones to beam internet access “down into communities from the sky.” A satellite, called AMOS-6 would be leased from the Israeli company Spacecom and shared between a French company, Eutelsat, and Facebook. Eutelsat will expand its paid broadband connections in the region for businesses and well-off individuals.
“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, VP of Internet.org, in a statement.
The satellite could launch as early as next year and service would start in the second half of 2016.
The initiative is undertaken in partnership with Internet.org – a charity Facebook runs. Internet.org asks internet service providers (ISPs) to help provide “free basics” to countries where wired internet penetration is sparse or non-existent, touting the virtues of developing markets and appealing to the tech world’s charitable instincts.
Earlier this year, Facebook announced they had developed a gigantic solar-powered drone that could stay in the stratosphere for months at a time, beaming broadband internet to rural and hard-to-reach areas.
The drone, called Aquila, is the baby of Facebook’s year old Connectivity Lab. During the day it will cruise in circles at 90,000 feet, soaking up solar power. At night it will save energy by drifting down to 60,000 feet.
To get the Internet, a laser system will connect the ground and the drone. A Facebook team working on the laser technology in California, says it has achieved speeds of tens of gigabytes per second – enough to allow hundreds of thousands of people to access broadband Internet simultaneously;
Until relatively recently, internet in Kenya was largely provided by satellite through a large dish in the Rift Valley; four large submarine fiber-optic cables radically changed the way the country received the web beginning in 2009 under the acronym The East African Marine System (Teams), and now several multinational internet companies have a strong presence in the country, notably Alcatel-Lucent and Fujitsu.