Broadband for the ‘other three billion’

Over the festive break I was musing on the broad benefits on getting the populations of developing countries connected.  Amongst the barriers  hindering ‘in-country’ network roll-out are opaque mechanisms for spectrum allocation and management and concerns over the rule of law and property rights.

One approach that may address some of these issues is the deployment of satellite broadband.  In late November 2010, O3B Networks (‘the other three billion’ – those who currently don’t have broadband access) secured $1.2 bn of funding for the deployment of a constellation of low-earth orbit satellites to provide affordable mobile broadband.

As they are able to co-ordinate spectrum allocation at an international and regional level and do not have significant infrastructure deployed ‘in-country’ at a macro level it is easy to see how this proposition stands a good chance of succeeding where others have failed.

However, those with long memories will hope that this project has more success than some previous satellite projects from the late 1990s which struggled to find a commercially attractive customer proposition and so failed to live up to their investors’ expectations.  From my perspective, this proposition seems to be much better developed and to be sufficiently game-changing so as to have a much better chance of success.