The first four of 12 new satellites were launched into space Tuesday, intended to provide affordable, high-speed Internet to Africans and people in about 180 “under-connected” countries, according to a report in Business Daily.
The satellites could take a country like the Democratic Republic of Congo from being one of the most poorly-connected on Earth to one of the best, the report said.
Project investors include Google, cable company Liberty Global, satellite operator SES, HSBC bank and the Development Bank of Southern Africa.
The O3b, named for the “other 3 billion” people with restricted Internet access, covers an area between latitudes 45 degrees North and 45 degrees South, including all of Africa, most of Latin America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Australia and the Pacific Islands.
For many of the remaining unconnected and under-served regions of the world, there are already satellites providing Internet services, but at a prohibitive cost for many, the report says.
The new satellites, built by the Franco-Italian company Thales Alenia Space, will orbit at 5,000 miles above Earth and weigh about 1,400 pounds each. This is much closer and lighter than the existing satellites, which orbit at 22,000 miles and weigh up to 13,227 pounds each, the report says.
The O3b constellation will communicate with Earth four times faster than traditional satellites, the company said, and will charge 30 percent to 50 percent less, according to the Business Daily report.