Satellites to bring ultrafast internet to developing world

Fibre-speed internet is expected to be available in remote parts of Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific following the launch of four satellites Tuesday and another four later this year.

The first four satellites of O3b Networks Ltd.'s eight-satellite constellation are scheduled to blast off aboard a Soyuz rocket from the Guaiana Space Centre in French Guiana at 2:53 p.m. ET, following a day-long weather delay.

The remainder of the constellation is expected to launch in September and the network is scheduled to go online in November. A second constellation is expected to launch within 18 months.

Read about Google's other solution to bringing broadband to the developing world — balloons

Ob3 — which stands for "the other 3 billion," referring to the proportion of the world's population that currently has limited or no high-speed internet — is based in St. Helier, Jersey, U.K. According to the company's website, it aims to provide "low-cost, high-speed, low-latency internet and mobile connectivity" to 180 countries.

Its satellites will provide internet connectivity between 45 degrees north (slightly north of Toronto) and 45 degrees south latitude (which passes through New Zealand's South Island and the southern part of Chile and Argentina), covering roughly 70 per cent of the world's population.

The company also expects to provide high-speed internet to cruise ships in the ocean. Ob3's satellites will be launched to medium Earth orbit, about 8,000 kilometres above the surface — far closer than the 36,000 kilometres away that many communications satellites orbit. That means data will be able to travel two and from the satellites much more quickly — in 130 milliseconds rather than 500 milliseconds.

The company says the constellation will be able to transmit 84 gigabits per second.

O3b was started in 2007 by Greg Wyler, whose previous venture had been founding Rwanda's only fixed-line telecommunications company. Its initial investors included Google, Liberty Global and HSBC.

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