O3b, a company founded by internet pioneer Greg Wyler, plans to launch 12 satellites into the atmosphere to makes life easier for about three billion people in 180 countries who struggle with sluggish internet connections.
Four of the satellites are set to launch this week at the Sinnamary spaceport in French Guiana with the help of a Russian Soyuz rocket. Unfortunately, their flight was delayed by 24 hours following unfavourable weather conditions. The other four will launch in the following weeks and the last four will be launched next year.
O3b, which stands for “the other three billion”, was born when Wyler struggled with internet access during a trip to Russia in 2007. The issue is common in emerging markets such as landlocked African countries and water-isolated nations in the Pacific.
“Only when emerging markets achieve affordable and ubiquitous access to the rest of the world will we observe locally-generated content, widespread e-learning, telemedicine and many more enablers to social and economic growth,” he explained.
Overall, the satellites will roam over the equator and will cover vast regions including Australia, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, most of Latin America, the Middle East, and the entire African continent.
Although existing geostationary satellites deliver similar services, they are usually found 36,000km above the earth, resulting in signal delays and high latency. On the other hand, the O3b satellites are light and small enough that they can hover at 8,000km.