Facebook To Launch Satellite That Will Provide Africa With Free Internet, AMOS-6 Launching in 2016

Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook is planning to launch a satellite into space with the hopes of sending free wireless internet back down to Earth in remote parts of the world.

Zuckerberg revealed that the satellite is currently being built and is expected to launch in 2016. Initially, the satellite will service remote areas of Africa where the internet is spotty at best and mostly unavailable to refugees and other underprivileged individuals, according to the Irish Times.

Zuckerberg posted the reveal on Facebook, sharing that it is part of Facebook’s free mobile data scheme, Internet.org.

“Connectivity changes lives and communities. We’re going to keep working to connect the entire world — even if that means looking beyond our planet.”

The satellite is the second stage of Internet.org, the first being a trial with drones that beamed free internet over the U.K.

The satellite will be a huge step toward providing individuals with access to worldly information that they wouldn’t otherwise receive due to economical situations. Facebook is teaming up with Eutelsat, a French company, to build and launch the satellite, according to CNN Money.

Mark Zuckerberg is being hailed by many by his attempt to provide free internet to the world, starting with the areas that need it the most. However, he claims that his good deed is not without a mission in mind, he stated during the United Nations Private Sector forum.

“It’s not all altruism. We all benefit when we are more connected.”

Internet.org’s vice president, Chris Daniels, stated that Facebook’s involvement in connecting the world will help rid less fortunate individuals of the barriers that separate them from the rest of the world.

“Facebook’s mission is to connect the world and we believe that satellites will play an important role in addressing the significant barriers that exist in connecting the people of Africa.”

Internet.org currently provides internet access via a smartphone app. The goal is to allow a small handheld device to be used in places like refugee camps that can be hidden if needed. The free internet from the satellites would allow the necessary connectivity. However, the app is limited in what it can access and has recently been renamed “Free Basics by Facebook.”

There are plans to extend the connectivity in the future to allow more internet access. However, Internet.org is currently under fire for their limited accesses to information.

Internews CEO Daniel Bruce states that the concept is fantastic, but the limited access misses out on important grassroots local information that may be integral to bettering urban Africa’s situation.

“It is comparable to putting up a large radio mast and not having any radio station at the bottom of it.”

He applauds the large internet companies for making an attempt to help, but feels it needs more individualization.

“[C]ome up with solutions that work on a ground level and help communities make original content” in their own language.It would be a mistake to see access to the internet alone as a solution.”

Regardless of the feedback, the satellite is only one phase in connecting people all over the planet. Once the satellite is launched, Zuckerberg and Facebook will connect with the intended countries and help them make it usable for their needs.

“The AMOS-6 satellite is under construction now and will launch in 2016 into a geostationary orbit that will cover large parts of West, East and Southern Africa. We’re going to work with local partners across these regions to help communities begin accessing internet services provided through satellite.”

What are your thoughts? Is the satellite a good idea?

[Photo by NASA/Getty Images News]