Facebook To Beam Free Internet To Sub-Saharan Africa - InformationWeek

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Government // Mobile & Wireless
Commentary
10/6/2015
06:05 AM
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb
Commentary
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Facebook To Beam Free Internet To Sub-Saharan Africa

Facebook inks a deal with French satellite company Eutelsat to provide wireless Internet access to Africa.

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Facebook announced Monday that it is partnering with Eutelsat to bring Internet connectivity to remote parts of Africa.

Under the multi-year agreement with Spacecom (the satellite provider), the two companies will use the entire broadband payload on a future geo-stationary Ka-band AMOS-6 satellite that is scheduled for launch in the second half of 2016.

Terminals in Africa will be linked by the satellite to dedicated Internet gateways in France, Italy, and Israel. These terminals have dish antennas with a diameter of about 75 centimeters.

The AMOS-6 carries 36 transponders, 24 of which can be operated simultaneously. However, it is likely that only 18 will actually be used in this manner.

The system is designed to reach to large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, which is an area currently beyond the range of existing fixed and mobile terrestrial networks.

(Image: Eutelsat)

(Image: Eutelsat)

"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, vice president of Facebook's internet connectivity initiative, Internet.org, in its press 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."

Internet.org, which launched a projected targeted at the Indian market, aims to "connect the two thirds of the world that doesn't have internet access."

However, the project has been criticized in the past for not providing net-neutral access, and for limiting the sites to which it connects (like Facebook and some local partners). Some have seen it as Facebook's attempt to tap into emerging markets to fuel Facebook's own growth.

Typically, Facebook partners with local cellular operators who provide the low-speed phone bandwidth needed. Facebook takes care of marketing to the end-users.

[Is Facebook conquering the world? Read Mark Zuckerberg at the UN.]

Paris-based Eutelsat currently provides satellite capacity for many parts of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas. It is used by TV, radio, and cable networks, and has access to 39 satellites that orbit the Earth.

Eutelsat will be setting up a new company to be based in London that will oversee the African satellite broadband rollout. It will use its share of the bandwidth to offer Internet access to small and medium-size businesses and to more affluent consumers with its own commercial solutions.

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet ... View Full Bio
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larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
10/6/2015 | 5:09:19 PM
Re: Limited?
Zuck has justtified it this way: "Hey, it's better than nothing."
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
10/6/2015 | 4:26:03 PM
Re: Limited?
A subset of the Internet isn't quite the same thing.
larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
10/6/2015 | 1:51:54 PM
Re: Limited?
Africa is not a country, it is a land mass.

There are many different localities thare.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
10/6/2015 | 1:47:28 PM
Re: Limited?
I guess my view of Africa is skewed by what I see on the news and in movies, which is usually not favorable. I wasn't even aware (outside major cities) there were many cell towers for voice in Africa, much less for the data side of things. If you think about an African vacation for a safari, I guess I wouldn't expect my cell phone to work.
larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
10/6/2015 | 1:35:03 PM
Re: Limited?
Probably the same ones that have cell phones in the first place, since you need one to connect to the bird.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
10/6/2015 | 12:52:09 PM
Re: Limited?
How nice. Facebook can at least show them pictures of food, since so many can't find any real food. I wonder how many people in Africa (at least parts of it) consider this even on their priority list?
larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
10/6/2015 | 7:30:58 AM
Re: Limited?
OOooooooo great point.

If Facebook goes for the GreatAfricanFirewall, it will be condemned no doubt.

But will it care, or will it cave to goverments just to gain market share?

This is going to get interesting....
Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
10/6/2015 | 7:17:56 AM
Limited?
As much as this is great news, I worry that like Facebook's Internet.org project, it will limit what can be accessed through the platform. That creates dangerous content bubbles which paners to some of the filtering we've seen in countries like China and soon the UK. 

Will Facebook pander to any sub-saharan countries' governments with what content it actually provides, even if it doesn't limit it for technological reasons?
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