AfDB loan for satellites

The Board of Directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) has approved a USD50-million loan to help find a USD1 billion project to provide satellite communications for emerging markets.

The loan will fund the design, construction, launch and operation of a scalable equatorial constellation of Middle Earth Orbit satellites and associated ground infrastructure to provide broadband internet access to some three billion underserved people in emerging countries including those in Africa.

The Other 3 Billion (O3b) project, designed exclusively for emerging markets with a lack of terrestrial infrastructure such optical fiber backbones. It aims to  provide broadband access to the other 3 billion underserved people living in Africa, Asia and South America.

AfDB said in a statement that by offering communication services that combine the high throughput of optical fiber with the flexibility of satellite systems and their ability to serve urban and rural areas, O3b will enable operators in emerging countries to access international bandwidth at prices well below those currently available.

The project is promoted by the Socié té Europé enne de Satellites (SES), a world leader in satellite systems; Liberty Global, a multinational cable operator; HSBC and Google, the world internet services leader. Estimated at one billion dollars, the project is funded by commercial banks under the French export credit agency (Coface) and a group of development institutions, including AfDB.

The Bank says development of international connectivity including linking up regional and national backbones is in line with the AfDB’ s 2008-2010 ICT Strategy, which sets out infrastructure as the first focal area.

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