September 11th, 2008 | Published in Google Public Policy
(Cross-posted from the Official Google Africa Blog)
An important aspect of Google's mission is to make information universally accessible. Unfortunately, in many less developed areas of the world, particularly countries in Africa, access to the Internet is scarce and expensive. Today, we are pleased to let you know about one way we're helping to address this problem: by investing in O3b Networks. O3b's mission is to provide high-speed, low-cost Internet connectivity to the "other 3 billion" people in emerging markets in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.
Most of today's developed countries are linked by thousands of kilometers of submarine fiber optic cables to carry core Internet traffic. This is a very cost-effective solution, once the fiber is in place; but in many developing and remote areas, fiber isn't available due to economic and sometimes political roadblocks. Though existing geo-synchronous satellites are able to reach theses areas, they provide slow Internet connectivity because of their distance from the Earth - and they're expensive and often fully subscribed. O3b plans to deliver fiber-like Internet backhaul service using a constellation of medium-orbit satellites. This means data can be quickly transmitted to and from even the most remote locations such as inland Africa or small Pacific islands.
The O3b satellite constellation will provide high-speed, low-latency backhaul services at speeds reaching into the gigabits per second. The satellites will orbit the earth at about one-third the altitude of a geo-synchronous satellite, which means it takes less time for data to travel up and back. This low latency translates into better voice connections as well as a snappier web experience.
O3b is currently planning to begin service beginning in late 2010. We are very excited about the prospects for O3b and its shared mission of bringing access to those parts of the world that need it most.