Facebook said Monday that it has partnered with the French satellite company Eutelsat to provide wireless Internet access to sub-Saharan Africa. Starting in the second half of 2016, Facebook’s Internet.org initiative will pay to use up all the available bandwidth on Eutelsat’s AMOS-6 satellite, which will carry data from mobile users on the ground to the rest of the globe.
Africa is known among technology companies as a place that largely skipped over fixed, wired broadband and leapfrogged directly to wireless data. Even so, mobile broadband penetration in sub-Saharan Africa is still low; just 2 in 5 are expected to have mobile Internet by 2020, according to the GSM Association.
The multi-year deal between Internet.org and Eutelsat will address the “significant barriers that exist in connecting the people of Africa,” said Internet.org vice president Chris Daniels, in a release.
Facebook and Google have both sought ways to bring more Internet connectivity to developing regions, partly in an effort to expand their user bases. Both companies have explored using drones, lasers and satellite technology to bring data cheaply to the rest of the world.
[Lasers, satellites and drones: How Facebook plans to deliver Internet to the developing world]
Facebook has also partnered with local telecom companies in more than a dozen countries to provide access to broadband. In July, it launched a Web page aimed at enticing other firms to link up with the project.
Internet.org makes some basic online services, such as health information, education and financial help available for free in 19 countries. It has opened the door to more applications amid criticism that by favoring some apps and providers over others, Internet.org is running afoul of net neutrality.
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