Google-backed Internet satellite company O3b Networks has raised $1.2 billion in what is says is its final funding round before it launches its “constellation” of fiber-quality satellites to bring the developing world online.
The Channel Island-based company’s name comes from “the other three billion,” referring to the number of people in the world who currently do not have regular Internet access.
The three-year-old startup has thus far been focused on building easy-to-use global satellite-based Internet technology for Internet service providers and telecom companies attempting to push into rapidly emerging markets.
It will theoretically be able to reach these markets when others couldn’t because O3b’s satellites will be placed in orbit 8,000 kilometers from the Earth, four times closer to the planet than regular geostationary satellites.
Google has poured money into the company at every round—primarily because that satellite proximity should give provide low-latency, fiber-quality access to approximately 70 per cent of the world’s population with fiber quality Internet connectivity.
The company said it plans to launch its first commercial service during the first half of 2013, following the launch of the first eight satellites by Arianespace with a Soyuz launcher from French Guiana.
O3b already has around 10 customers who have signed deals valued at $500 million to $600 million to use its infrastructure, the company told the Wall Street Journal.