Facebook to launch satellite internet for Africa header image

Published: 22nd Jun 2016

Social media company Facebook has announced plans to provide satellite internet access to remote parts of Africa by 2016.

According to the company’s chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg, the project is part of the not-for-profit Internet.org initiative, which aims to provide free mobile data to remote areas around the developing world, which it believes will help international development.

Explaining his choice of satellite internet for the project, Mr Zuckerberg said: "Over the last year Facebook has been exploring ways to use aircraft and satellites to beam internet access down into communities from the sky. "To connect people living in remote regions, traditional connectivity infrastructure is often difficult and inefficient, so we need to invent new technologies."

"The AMOS-6 satellite is under construction now and will launch in 2016 into a geostationary orbit that will cover large parts of West, East and Southern Africa. We're going to work with local partners across these regions to help communities begin accessing internet services provided through satellite."

However, whether users would have to pay to access the service was not mentioned, unlike with other Internet.org initiatives. However, it was stressed that users would be able to get online using affordable and readily accessible technologies.

The decision to use satellite internet for the initiative highlights just how effective it can be at reaching the most rural and difficult-to-connect communities around the world.

Previous Internet.org projects have targeted isolated communities in locations such as Kenya, Indonesia, Colombia and Ecuador, working with local mobile providers to offer the service.

However, Internet.org has been criticised in the past by people who believe that its Facebook-centric services (which promote specific local and international news sources by allowing access to them free of charge) could compromise net neutrality - the principle that all online data should be treated equally.