Facebook, Eutelsat to beam Internet to Africa by satellite

Facebook is working with French satellite firm Eutelsat Communications SA to beam the Internet to parts of sub-Saharan Africa starting next year.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement in a Facebook post.

“As part of our Internet.org efforts to connect the world, we’re partnering with Eutelsat to launch a satellite into orbit that will connect millions of people,” Zuckerberg wrote.

Through Internet.org, Facebook has been exploring how to use aircraft and satellites to reach remote regions where traditional means of connecting to the Internet are “often difficult and inefficient,” he said.

As part of Facebook’s collaboration with Eutelsat, the AMOS-6 satellite, which is expected to launch in 2016, will bring Internet access to West, East and Southern Africa in the second half of the year. The AMOS-6 is built by Israeli satellite operator Spacecom. Facebook and Eutelsat said they have an agreement with Spacecom to use its broadband capacity.

Eutelsat said it is forming a new company in London to lead its African broadband business. Zuckerberg said Facebook will team up with with local partners “to help communities begin accessing Internet services provided through satellite.”

“This is just one of the innovations we’re working on to achieve our mission with Internet.org,” Zuckerberg said.

In a statement, Chris Daniels, vice president of Internet.org, said satellites will play an “important” role in addressing the “significant barriers that exist in connecting the people of Africa.”

Internet.org has come under fire, especially in India and Indonesia. Some consumer groups as well as other business interests have complained Internet.org gives Facebook too much control over what people can access on the Internet through the app.