O3b’s super satellite broadband coming in 2013

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O3b Networks, a Google-backed, satellite-based telecom company, says it will launch its revolutionary new satellite-broadband service next year. Steve Collar, the chief executive of the company (who was until recently with SES New Skies, an O3b investor and the world’s second-largest satellite operator by revenue) told attendees of PTC 2012, a telecom gathering in Hawaii, that O3b was one year from the planned launch of its satellite constellation that will provide fiber-comparable broadband services in remote parts of the world.

O3b Networks launched with much fanfare in 2008 and in 2010 raised a whopping $1.18 billion from a wide assortment of investors, including Google. The company was put under pressure by the global credit squeeze, and that pushed out its plans and limited its scope. When O3b launched in 2008, I wrote:

The project, the brainchild of Greg Wyler, is going to cost $650 million and will require 16 satellites; the service is due to start by the second half of 2010. Wyler apparently has a lot of telecom experience in Africa. Liberty Global, a company owned, in part, by legendary media mogul John Malone is going to help develop the project.

Since then the company has reduced the number of satellites to eight. The company is planning to sell its high-speed connectivity to Internet service providers, especially in countries and locations that are not connected via fiber. These include many small islands in the Pacific, a key target market for O3b, Collar told attendees of PTC 2012. The company, according to Collar, will offer what it calls O3b Trunk service, which will provide connections from 100 Mbps to 1.2 Gbps with 130 millisecond round-trip latency.

The company recently announced that it will work with companies such as Gilat Satellite and ViaSat to provide equipment for carriers to receive data from O3b. The KA-band satellites orbit at 8,000 km, four times closer than regular geostationary satellites, and that gives them the capability to provide better performance and extremely low latency.

P.S. Where is founder Greg Wyler? He doesn’t even seem to be on the board of directors of the company or on the management page. Did he leave the company? Any clues, anyone?

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