The internet of the future is closer than we think. Facebook plans to deliver free internet to African countries by beaming it down from satellites in space.
Social media giant Facebook has teamed up with French satellite company Eutelsat in a move to provide the people of sub-Saharan Africa with free internet access. The satellite is set to launch in 2016 and service is set to launch in the second half of the year. In total, 14 countries will be reached throughout East, West and Southern Africa. Facebook’s goal is to bring the internet to rural areas that otherwise would not have access.
This move come as a part of Facebook’s Internet.org initiative, using drones, lasers and satellites to connect the “next billion people” to the internet. So far, 20 countries have already been impacted by the initiative.
“Facebook’s mission is to connect the world,” VP of Internet.org Chris Daniels stated, “and we believe that satellites will play an important role in addressing the significant barriers that exist in connecting the people of Africa.”
Eutelsat and Facebook will lease the AMOS-6 satellite from Israeli satelite communications company Spacecom. They will share the satellite, each using it for their own purposes. Eutelsat is planning on expanding its paid broadband service in the area for business people and well-off individuals in the region.
Internet.org has received some criticism for their initiative, as the free services are only available through a smartphone app. The app includes access to 60 free services, including health and finance apps and Facebook of course. Recently, the app was renamed “Free Basics by Facebook” in an attempt to associate the project less with Internet.org and more with Facebook.
In July, Facebook revealed a drone which they intend to use to bring internet access to those in hard-to-reach areas. The use of satellites will only continue to add to Facebook’s reach. The social media giant is not the only company looking for ways to bring low-cost internet to people around the globe. Google has been working on Project Loon, a similar project that would utilize hot air balloons to provide remote areas with internet access.