Social networking giant Facebook is said to be in advanced talks with UK-based satellite operator Avanti over a new project designed to provide free internet access across large parts of Africa. According to the Daily Telegraph, the deal is expected to be unveiled in the near future, under the auspices of Facebook’s Internet.org initiative, which aims ‘to bring the internet to the two thirds of the world’s population that doesn’t have it’.
Avanti currently offers coverage of the Middle East and Africa via its HYLAS 2 satellite, which was launched in August 2012. Going forward, HYLAS 3 will be ready for commercial service in 2016, while HYLAS 4 will launch in 2017, both serving Africa. The company provides internet access over a high frequency radio link to a satellite dish and base station, which converts the bandwidth into an ordinary Wi-Fi signal. According to Internet.org, if developing economies had the levels of internet access enjoyed in rich countries, global productivity would be boosted by 25% and 160 million people would be lifted out of poverty.
The broadsheet claims that Mark Zuckerberg, chairman and CEO of Facebook Inc, turned to Avanti after his appeal to a number of major mobile operators at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) received a cool reception.