PARIS – The first four of 12 satellites in a new constellation to provide affordable, high-speed Internet to people in nearly 180 “underconnected” countries, was scheduled to be shot into space Tuesday, the project’s developers said.
The orbiters, part of a project dubbed O3b for the “other 3 billion” people with restricted Internet access, was scheduled to be lifted by a Russian Soyuz rocket from Kourou in French Guiana.
The project was born from the frustrations of Internet pioneer Greg Wyler with the inadequacy of Rwanda’s telecommunications network, while traveling there in 2007. Wyler’s plan was to bypass costly ground-based infrastructure such as fiber-optics or cables by deploying a constellation of small satellites around the equator to serve as a spatial relay. Such a system would cover a region between the latitudes of 45 degrees north and 45 degrees south — the entire African continent, most of Latin America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Australia and the Pacific Islands.