Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg says the social-media firm's internet.org initiative will begin delivering broadband services to rural communities in Africa via a satellite that will launch next year.
Together with satellite operator Eutelsat Communications, Facebook has reserved the entire broadband capacity of Spacecom's AMOS-6, which will be launched into a geostationary orbit in 2016.
According to a statement released by Eutelsat, AMOS-6 is capable of "community and direct-to-user internet access using affordable, off-the-shelf customer equipment".It is not yet clear whether or not Facebook intends to launch full ISP services of its own or simply give limited access to its internet.org services. No local spokesperson was available for comment.
But writing on his blog Zuckerberg said: "We're going to work with local partners across these regions to help communities begin accessing internet services provided through satellite."
According to the most recent statistics from the International Telecommunications Union, Africa remains the least connected continent with internet penetration at just 19 percent - compared with the international average of 60 percent.
Eutelsat argues that satellite broadband will help to reach people living out of range of fixed-line and cell coverage, and says that AMOS-6 is designed for high-throughput data transmissions, which will bring down the cost of satellite connectivity compared with current solutions.
A new company is being established by Eutelsat to oversee its African strategy and role in the venture.
Internet.org is an alliance unveiled by Zuckerberg in August 2013 with a white paper asserting that internet connectivity is a fundamental human right.
With a core membership of Ericsson, Facebook, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera Software, Samsung, and Qualcomm, the alliance has this year attracted some criticism for supposedly promoting Facebook services over those of its competitors.