O3b Network’s first satellites successfully in space — Pago should benefit

A space ship that blasted off this week from a small South American country that most of us probably can’t locate on a map is destined to revolutionize telecommunication and internet services for parts of the world that currently have little or no access to broadband internet. And American Samoa is on the top of the list to benefit from this novel telecommunications network.

 

Earlier this year American Samoa Telecommunication Authority (ASTCA) signed an agreement with O3b Networks, the company that launched their first four medium-Earth orbit satellites that will deliver fiber speed with satellite reach for Pacific Island nations. They were successfully launched on a Soyuz rocket from French Guiana on Tuesday.

 

It took more than two hours to get the spacecraft into its just over 5,000 mile-high (8062 km) orbit, the altitude that is a critical part of the O3b Network design.

 

By flying in this "medium-Earth orbit", the satellites will be a quarter of the distance from Earth that traditional geostationary (GEO) telecommunications satellites orbit in and O3b is promising its customers a round-trip transmission time of a little more than 100 milliseconds—an astounding improvement over the delivery time of the older satellite providers.

 

In January ASTCA said it was preparing a state of the art, dual 7.3-meter antenna array at the ASTCA Ili'ili Teleport (located on the golf course) that will receive the signal from the satellites for distribution through the fiber optic network being laid on island as part of the $90 million BLAST project.  At the time ASTCA said the equipment was ordered and the site was being prepped.

 

A selling point for O3b to extend the project to include American Samoa is ASTCA’s BLAST project that is wiring American Samoa fiber optically.

 

Samoa News watched this story develop this week via the Arianespace website — the company that launched the satellites. On Monday with the go-ahead in place, the launch was halted because of weather. On Tuesday the countdown began again, culminating with a successful launch and orbit.

 

Steve Collar, Chief Executive Officer of O3b Networks said on its website, “The Internet is now established as the key infrastructure that supports every sector of the economy and is a fundamental driver of productivity, innovation and economic growth. It is the most transformational technology of our time. And yet, this transformational technology is not available to everyone. As our customers reach out further and further into the remote and rural communities and populations of the world, O3b will provide the critical infrastructure to connect, to reach further and to do more.”

 

Samoa News understands that the new service should be available in the third quarter of 2013 and on Tuesday, prior to the launch, we sought comments from ASTCA board chairman Roy J.D. Hall, Jr who referred us to CEO Moefa'auo Bill Emmsley for updates on both the BLAST and O3b projects. 

 

In the spirit of transparency promised by the Lolo administration, Samoa News would like to know:

 

1.            Why has the BLAST project been in delay mode for the past year and when is the completion date anticipated?

 

2.            Is the Ili'ili Teleport eligible for BLAST funding or is another funding source available?

 

3.            If the teleport is funded by BLAST are there any costs associated with O3b project that remain unfunded?

 

4.            What is the status of the Ili'ili Teleport and is it completed?

 

5.            Tell us how these two projects are going to 'revolutionize' our connectivity and when ASTCA expects the medium-Earth orbit satellites will be in use here in American Samoa.

 

No replies to our questions were received at press time.

 

BACKGROUND

 

One of the conditions of the BLAST grant is that ASTCA must improve broadband capacity up to 3 times greater than it currently offers, at the same price it presently charges.

 

O3b Networks’ investors are SES, Google, Liberty Global, HSBC Principal Investments, Northbridge Venture Partners, Allen & Company, Development Bank of Southern Africa, Sofina, Satya Capital and Luxempart. O3b Networks is headquartered in St. John, Jersey, Channel Islands.

 

The name "O3b" stands for "[The] Other 3 Billion", referring to the population of the world where broadband Internet is not available without help.

 

 

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