Google-backed satellite operator O3b Networks, which stands for “the Other 3 billion”, is set to launch services in 2013 after this week securing its final round of funding. The company has raised a total of $1.2bn from a group of investors and banks, which will allow it to launch the first of its satellites dedicated to providing low-latency, fibre-quality internet connectivity between developing markets and the global internet infrastructure.
Counting Google as one of its leading backers, O3b has also attracted the interests of HSBC Principal Investments and Liberty Global, as well as Bridge Venture Partners, Allen & Company, and SES as leading investors. Funding has also come from ING, CA-CIB, Dexia, DBSA, AFDB, DEG, Proparco, FMO, IFC and EAIF, as well as the Development Bank of Southern Africa, Sofina and Satya Capital.
Thales Alenia Space is currently constructing O3b’s first eight satellites and is using a system design that will allow O3b to add many more satellites to the constellation in the future in order to increase capacity. O3b’s satellites will be placed in orbit 8,000 kilometers from the earth, four times closer to the planet than regular geostationary satellites, which should give customers extremely low latency.
O3b will begin commercial service during the first half of 2013 following the planned launch of the first eight satellites by Arianespace with a Soyuz launcher from French Guiana. ViaSat will provide the teleport and trunking product customer terminals.
The brainchild of American entrepreneur Greg Wyler, who has rolled out fibre networks in Rwanda with his company Terracom, O3b Networks proposes to wirelessly connect markets in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, providing access to approximately 70 per cent of the world’s population with “fibre quality” internet connectivity.