Internet from space: rocket launch could mean better broadband for Colombia’s remotest regions

Posted on Jul 11 2014 - 6:52pm by TNN
(Photo: O3b Networks)

Colombia could soon see high speed, reliable broadband across its most remote island and jungle regions thanks to a new constellation of satellites launched this week.

A rocket successfully lifted off from a spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana at about 4PM local time on Thursday, and the four satellites aboard will bring global coverage to the “space Internet” network of space start-up company, O3b.

“In a few weeks, we will be able to offer services to Colombia,” Omar Trujillo,  O3b’s vice-president for Africa and Latin America told Colombia Reports from the launch site.

Trujillo said the company had been talking to service providers and governments in Colombia for the better part of two years and that Leticia, located deep in Colombia’s Amazon region, looked set to be the first place to benefit from the new service.

“Internet is no longer a luxury.  It’s essential for both business and education.”

Internet from Mid-Earth orbit to the Amazon

“Before, its been fairly hard to get reliable, fast Internet in this remote region,” said Trujillo, who originally is from Bogota.

Soon, according to Trujillo, users there will be able to have a connection that runs to a base station in the city, up to one of the constellation of communications satellites and then back down to a major hub like Bogota or Miami.

According to Internet speed test site Ookla, Colombia’s average download speed is 6 MB per second, but according to O3b, they will be providing up to 1.5 GB per second, a speed that comparable to low-end fiber-optic cable Internet in developed countries.

Because O3b is a “wholesale” provider, rather than straight to the producer, it will be up to the government or the utility companies to determine the speed and price that is actually delivered to the customer.

Colombia’s government already has a program called Vive Digital which aims to bring Internet to all Colombians. It is not yet known whether the O3b satellites could be part of that mix.

MORE: Colombia seeks to provide internet to 63% of population by 2018

Despite strong economic growth, a lack of infrastrucuture, including communications infrastrucutue, continues to constrain growth, according to a 2014 report by the World Bank.

MORE: Colombia plummets in World Bank logistics and infrastructure ranking

“Internet is no longer a luxury.  It’s essential for both business and education,” Trujillo said.

Trujillo also said that the company had also been in discussions to bring a connection to Providencia in Colombia’s Caribbean islands.

Finnish space journalist Jari Makinen told Colombia Reports that O3b’s mid-earth orbit was about the same as the current constellation of GPS satellites.

“The middle orbit (around 5,000 miles) is an interesting concept and the satellite technology is definitely good for countries with mountains or bad/old/no-existing telecom infrastructure,” he said.

O3b, established in 2007, started to offer service to parts of Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean earlier this year, but the latest successful launch means they now have global coverage.

The company name, O3B, means “the other three billion,” representing the 3 billion people on the planet who don’t have access to high speed internet, whom the company wants to serve.

Video: Rocket launch successful

Sources

  • About O3b (O3b website)
  • Interivew with Omar Trujillo (Colombia Reports)
  • Interview with Jari Makinen (Colombia Reports)

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