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O3B brings the Internet to the ‘other 3 billion’

How o3b satellite came about


It was in Rwanda in 2007 that Greg Wyler hatched the idea of developing Internet connectivity for emerging nations. A pioneer of 3G mobile telephony in Africa, he was being held back by the poor standard of local telecommunications networks. The solution he came up with was simple: bypass costly ground infrastructures (fibre and other cable networks) by orbiting a constellation of small satellites. To make this huge project a reality, he enrolled John Malone at Liberty Media and Larry Page at Google. Soon afterwards, Wyler turned to Thales Alenia Space’s engineers to confirm the project’s technical feasibility.




Each O3b satellite is in equatorial orbit and connected to the Internet by a radio link through ground relay stations. Users obtain a broadband Internet connection through the O3b constellation via a parabolic dish antenna.

The satellites are designed to cover 180 developing nations between latitudes 45° north and 45° south. The constellation will therefore deliver affordable broadband telecommunications and Internet connectivity across Africa and almost all of Latin America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Australia and the Pacific.


What advantages do the O3b satellites offer over standard satellites?


The satellites designed by Thales Alenia Space will operate at an altitude of only 8,062 km, whereas geostationary satellites usually orbit at 36,000 km. That means that communications with Earth will be significantly faster — O3b is promising customers a round-trip signal latency of just over 100 milliseconds, against 600 milliseconds for standard geostationary satellites.


Watch this video of the launch of the first four O3b satellites on 25 June 2013 from Kourou, French Guiana: