O3b. That's Short for (An)other 3 Billion Google Users
Google services are near-ubiquitous in mature markets, but in emerging ones? Not so much. That will soon change, however, thanks to an ambitious plan to bring affordable Internet access to some three billion people in Africa and other emerging markets. The company has allied with John Malone’s Liberty Global and banking giant HSBC to form O3b Networks, a reference to the “other 3 billion” people to which it hopes to provide Internet access.
Together, the three companies are investing $750 million in 16 low-earth orbit satellites that collectively will provide Internet back-haul capacity to areas that lack it. This additional capacity will make it substantially easier and less expensive for others to deliver high-speed Web access to underserved locations. Indeed, according to Larry Alder, product manager in Google’s (GOOG) alternative access group, the project could drop the cost of bandwidth in those regions by 95 percent. Said Alder, “This really fits into Google’s mission to extend Internet use around the developing world.”
Fits nicely into Google’s mission to extend Google use around the world as well. “Google has an interest in boosting the Internet all over the world to reach new masses,” said Bank Degroof Group fund manager Wim Zwanenburg. “The growth market for Internet and mobile phones is in emerging countries.”