SES buys into O3b

Monday, 16 November 2009

O3b is an ambitious plan to girdle the planet with satellite-delivered high-speed broadband access. SES, the Luxembourg-based satellite operator, is joining Google, Liberty Global, HSBC and North Bridge Venture Capital in an investment in O3b.

SES is pitching $75m into the scheme which has as its intention supplying the “other 3 billion” inhabitants of the planet with easy broadband access. O3b stands for ‘the other 3 billion’.

O3b is based in Jersey, one of the Channel Islands, and SES will supply engineering and commercial support to O3b “in order to assist the company’s development”.

O3b will initially launch eight satellites that will be placed in medium earth orbit (8,000 kilometers from the earth), which is some four times closer to the planet than geostationary satellites at over 35,000 kilometers, and accounts for the low latency of just 1/20th of a second. Based on O3b’s current spectrum allocation in the Ka frequency band, the company has the option to launch many more satellites in the future. This innovative satellite system will cover approximately 70% of the world’s population with fibre-quality internet connectivity at attractive terms and conditions.

Stage 2 is to double the number of satellites to 16. Thales Alenia is building the satellites and the published plan is to launch the first batch later next year.