Facebook Will Use Israeli Satellite to Expand Internet Access to sub-Saharan Africa

Spacecom’s AMOS-6 satellite will be launched next year to deliver Internet and Facebook from space.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the social network company will launch an Israeli satellite to bring Internet access to large parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Zuckerberg made the announcement on his own Facebook page on Monday.

The AMOS-6 satellite, built by Israel Aerospace Industries and operated by Israeli company Spacecom, in partnership with France’s Eutelsat Communications, will be part of Facebook’s Internet.org platform to expand Internet access — mainly via mobile phones.

The geostationary satellite will provide coverage for large parts of West, East and Southern Africa, Zuckerberg said in his post.

“I’m excited to announce our first project to deliver Internet from space....To connect people living in remote regions, traditional connectivity infrastructure is often difficult and inefficient, so we need to invent new technologies,” Zuckerberg wrote.

The Internet.org platform offers free access to pared-down web services, focused on job listings, agricultural information, healthcare and education, as well as Facebook’s own social network and messaging services.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Bloomberg

The satellite is still under construction and will be launched in early 2016, the companies said on Monday. It is expected to be launched into space on a Falcon 9 rocket developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Spacecom is expected to earn about $100 million from the deal, with the satellite costing about $300 million. It is planned to operate for 16 years and will be insured for $330 million.

“Over the last year Facebook has been exploring ways to use aircraft and satellites to beam Internet access down into communities from the sky," Zuckerberg wrote, citing the need to provide access to remote areas. "We’re going to work with local partners across these regions to help communities begin accessing Internet services provided through satellite,” he said.

"This is just one of the innovations we’re working on to achieve our mission with Internet.org. Connectivity changes lives and communities. We’re going to keep working to connect the entire world — even if that means looking beyond our planet,” said Zuckerberg.

Facebook has nearly 20 million users in major African markets Nigeria and Kenya, with a majority using mobile devices to access their profiles, according to data released by the company last month. Facebook opened its first African office in Johannesburg in June.

Growth in the number of people with access to the Internet is slowing, and more than half the world’s population is still offline, the United Nations Broadband Commission said last month.

The tech news website,The Information, reported in June that Facebook had abandoned plans to build a satellite to provide Internet service to Africa. 

Israel Aircraft Industries