“Fibre in the sky” to spark African broadband

The future of broadband in Africa and other emerging regions might be rosier than in remote parts of Europe after plans for a “fibre in the sky” satellite service landed the funding for lift-off.

Jersey-based communications company O3b Networks announced $1.2 billion in funding to finance the construction and launch of its global satellite constellation, which will support ISPs in developing regions.

According to the company, the network will provide “fibre-quality, low-latency internet backbone” for developing markets.

According to O3b, which stands for the “other three billion” of the world’s population without broadband access, the service should “provide the speed of fibre and the reach of satellite”.

The company said it planned to conquer the knotty issue of latency that has hampered satellite broadband by parking its dataships closer to Earth.

“Standard geosynchronous satellites operate approximately 36,000km away from Earth and as a result, round-trip data transmission times significantly exceed 500 milliseconds,” the company said in a statement.

“O3b’s medium earth orbit (MEO) satellites are far closer – approximately 8,000km away from Earth,” the company said. “As a result, round-trip data transmission times are reduced to approximately 100 milliseconds.”

The first eight Ka-band satellites for the project are currently being built by Thales Alenia Space and will be going into service in 2013 following the planned launch by Arianespace from French Guiana.

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