Facebook Brings Satellite Internet To Africa


Facebook is working with a satellite operator to expand Internet access in sub-Saharan Africa. They will use the entire broadband capability on a satellite scheduled to launch before the end of the year.

The AMOS-6 satellite (pictured) has two sets of bands. One, covering frequencies known as Ku-bands, will cover Europe and the Middle East. The other, 36 frequencies known as Ka-bands, will mainly cover Western, Eastern and Southern Africa.

These African bands will be used solely for broadband, with the capacity split between Eutelsat and Facebook’s Internet.org project. The Eutelsat capacity will be used for services aimed at businesses and more expensive consumer packages. The Facebook capacity will be used with the help of local partners to get “cost-effective” broadband available in currently unconnected populations, including rural areas.

While satellite connections have some big limitations, particularly in that upload speeds are often extremely limited, they can be a financially viable way of reaching locations where the cost of installing wired connections is prohibitive. The design of the new satellite is said to be particularly suited to handling the large amounts of data needed if the project reaches a huge user base.

Another possible limitation is that the Ka-bands are thought to be more susceptible to interference from weather conditions, though newer satellites such as AMOS-6 have technologies defined to minimize this effect.

Facebook hasn’t detailed how this will fit in with its existing program to offer free mobile access on smartphones in developing nations to people using low-data versions of apps (including, of course, Facebook.)