O3b Networks secures $1.2 billion for broadband satellite system

O3b Networks' ambitious goal to create a fiber-like satellite-based Internet targeting the emerging South American market got a lift this week as the service provider raised $1.2 billion in funding from existing and new investors.

As its name suggests O3b (the other 3 billion) is on a mission to bring affordable, high-speed broadband access starting in 2013 to a population that can't get broadband today, the service provider got the attention again of existing investors Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), North Bridge Venture Partners and Allen & Company, with SES, Liberty Global and HSBC Principal Investments taking the leading role.

Joining existing investors were the Development Bank of Southern Africa, Sofina and Satya Capital. Initial investor SES also not only becomes the largest minority shareholder in the company, but will also provide in-kind services, including commercial and engineering expertise to O3b.

"This has allowed us to achieve our goal of reaching the billions who have so far been poorly served or completely cut off from the Internet -- the greatest business and information resource of our time," said Mark Rigolle, chief executive of O3b, in a statement.

With more than 110 million Internet users in Africa as of the end of June, O3b believes the Southern African broadband market is a potentially untapped market opportunity ripe for the taking.

O3b's satellite network drive mirrors similar efforts being undertaken by Australia's NBN Co. and Avanti's Hylas 1 to extend broadband services to rural areas in Australia and Europe. Hylas 1

For more:
- see the release
- Reuters has this article

Related articles:
Australia's NBN will fill in rural fiber gaps with satellite
Mapping out rural mobile broadband plans
Latin America: A new telecom growth engine