Facebook and Eutelsat bringing free internet to Africa

Facebook will start beaming free internet to the sub-Saharan Africa next year, according to a press release published this morning.

The American social media giant has reached an agreement with French satellite internet operator Eutelsat to transmit internet connections to offline parts of sub-Saharan Africa from next year.

Through Facebook's Internet.org initiative, the company will offer a couple of free services to sub-Saharan users, including weather, news, health and, of course, Facebook.

"Under a multi-year agreement with Spacecom, the two companies will utilize the entire broadband payload on the future AMOS-6 satellite and will build a dedicated system comprising satellite capacity, gateways and terminals,” it says in the release.

AMOS-6 is a satellite from Israeli company Spacecom that is due to launch by the end of this year.

It will serve the most populous areas of sub-Saharan Africa, with 14 countries in total receiving the service.

“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,” said Chris Daniels, VP of Internet.org. “We are looking forward to partnering with Eutelsat on this project and investigating new ways to use satellites to connect people in the most remote areas of the world more efficiently.”

The initiative itself was criticized that it favours Facebook over rival products and violates the principles of net neutrality.

Last week, internet.org rebranded its free offering as "Free Basics by Facebook", a move it said would better distinguish the internet.org project itself from the service itself.