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Rumour has it that Facebook is in advanced talks with Avanti, a UK based satellite operator, regarding a project that will see it provide free internet access across Africa. The project is part of the Internet.org initiative, spearheaded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Though Facebook and Avanti have refused to confirm the rumour, the deal is expected to be announced in due course. Facebook turned to Avanti following a snub by mobile operators when Zuckerberg announced this plan earlier this year. In fact Vittorio Colao, the chief executive of Vodafone, rejected Zuckerberg’s appeal, saying there was “no reason I should give my network capacity for free”.
Avanti currently operates two broadband satellites over Africa and it has plans to launch another two in the next three years. Avanti provides internet access over a high frequency radio link to a satellite dish and base station, which converts the signal into an ordinary WiFi network.
The Internet.org initiative has been slowly assimilating itself into the continent of Africa. It also claims that if developing economies had the standard of internet access enjoyed in rich countries, global productivity would be boosted by 25% and 160-million people would be lifted out of poverty.
There have been numerous plans to provide internet to Africa especially its remote areas. Google, for instance, is in development on Project Loon, which involves high altitude balloons that hover in space and emit Wi-Fi signals and Facebook is also testing solar powered drones but has they will not be ready for years.
The news of this partnership between Facebook and Avanti is great news for Africa. Especially the remote areas that have, if any at all, scarce internet. And that it is not with a mobile operator means it can be available to a wider community and not restricted by mobile operator subscription.