Satellite communications enable people in even the remotest parts of the world to receive international television broadcasts. Using these satellites to link computers won't work as they are in a fixed position 36,000km above Earth and bouncing a signal from Earth to satellite and back again takes over half a second - a delay problematic for computer networks.
O3b, which refers to the 'over 3 billion' people worldwide without internet access, is overcoming this by placing a network of satellites in orbit only 8,000km above Earth.
In June 2013 O3b successfully launched the first four of 12 planned satellites in its next generation network which combines the reach of satellite with the speed of fibre. The O3b constellation is the first of its kind to operate in medium Earth orbit.
Placing the satellites in orbit at 8,000km puts them in the hostile environment of the Van Allen Belts. And as the target market for the internet services provided was in developing countries, it was unknown exactly how commercially attractive these services would be.
We carried out due diligence on behalf of the lenders and evaluated the technical performance of the satellite system and overall operations. We also assessed the cost, schedule and performance of the project to determine any potential technical, commercial or financial risks.
Using our communications expertise we demonstrated to the lenders how - by providing broadband connectivity within 45 degrees of latitude north and south of the equator - O3b's satellites would be in range of about 70% of the world's population, creating a potentially huge market. We also showed how the satellites would be constructed to a much tougher specification than usual to deal with their orbital location.
Value and benefits
The system is scalable and is designed to allow the insertion of additional satellites into the constellation to increase capacity as demand grows.
Internet access has proven to be of major benefit in stimulating economic activity, giving access to services such as banking, and providing access to information and education.
O3b's coverage zone between +/- 45 degrees of latitude was defined in order to deliver high quality, affordable internet connectivity to almost all emerging-markets countries, with optimal cost efficiency. Approximately 70% of the world's population will be within range.