Today, Facebook has over 1.49 billion users and the “next billion” could be added to the list in the upcoming year with the help of satellites and free internet. Facebook is teaming up with a French satellite company Eutelsat to launch a satellite that will beam free internet to certain areas of sub-Saharan Africa.
The satellite is set to launch next year and service will start in the second half of 2016. The internet broadcast will reach 14 countries in West, East, and Southern Africa.
In a recent post, Mark Zuckerberg was excited to announce Facebook’s new plan to bring internet to Africa.
“Over the last year Facebook has been exploring ways to use aircraft and satellites to beam internet access down into communities from the sky.”
A CNN Money report explains that Facebook and Eutelsat are leasing the AMOS-6 satellite from the Israeli company Spacecom. The two companies will share the satellite and use it for their own individual services. Eutelsat will expand its paid broadband connections in the region for businesses and well-off individuals.
A large push for spreading internet access around the world has come from Internet.org. It has connected people in nearly 20 countries already, and Facebook hopes to increase that number with this latest project.
“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, VP of Internet.org, in a recent statement.
Beaming down free internet from space is one thing, but Facebook and Eutelsat have also been working on a solution to help individual’s own devices gain access to the internet.
Eutelsat said users would be able to access the internet from the satellite on “affordable, off-the-shelf customer equipment” from the second half of next year.
However, there would be a select number of services that people could access –including Wikipedia, BBC News, some local news providers, and of course Facebook.
Broadcasting internet to low income areas is all part of the future of internet providers. Companies like Facebook and Eutelsat are just the beginning of a new wave of technology. In July, Facebook unveiled a new custom drone it plans to use to bring internet to hard-to-reach locations. Google is also working on Project Loon which involves using hot air balloons.
Could the time soon come where everyone on Earth is able to update their Facebook page no matter where they are on the planet? Only time will tell. But for now, we’ll just have to keep our eyes to the sky for Facebook’s new satellite.