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 2016.
The project marks the next step in the Internet.org initiative, with the company earlier this year testing solar-powered drones, which could beam internet signal from the skies above the UK.
The satellite, called AMOS-6, will cover large parts of West, East and Southern Africa, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post.
He said; “I’m excited to announce our first project to deliver internet from space.
“Over the last year Facebook has been exploring ways to use aircraft and satellites to beam internet access down into communities from the sky. To connect people living in remote regions, traditional connectivity infrastructure is often difficult and inefficient, so we need to invent new technologies.
“The AMOS-6 satellite is under construction now and will launch in 2016 into a geostationary orbit that will cover large parts of West, East and Southern Africa. We’re going to work with local partners across these regions to help communities begin accessing internet services provided through satellite.”
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.
In a statement, vice president of Internet.org, Chris Daniels, said, “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,”
“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.
Facebook has nearly 20 million users in major African markets, mostly from Nigeria and Kenya, with majority using mobile devices to access their profiles.
The company opened its first African office in Johannesburg in June.