O3b appoints new chief to steer course in emerging markets

Google-backed satellite operator O3b Networks has hired a telecoms veteran to steer it on its course to bring internet connectivity to emerging markets.

The brainchild of American entrepreneur Greg Wyler, who has rolled out fibre networks in Rwanda with his company Terracom, O3b Networks proposes to wirelessly connect markets in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.And O3b, which stands for “the Other 3 billion” has attracted the interests of Google, HSBC Principal Investments and Liberty Global as backers.

Where developed nations, particularly those in the northern hemisphere, are well served by an extensive submarine fibre network, the same is not true, in both a commercial and practical sense, of emerging markets. So O3b claims it can offer fibre performance over satellite links, at prices comparable to fibre in developed regions, as well as plugging directly into core networks and 3G cellular and WiMAX towers to change the economics of the telecommunications game in the world’s fastest growing markets.

As it prepares to launch another round of fundraising, Wyler is set to step back to a board role, to be replaced by ex-Cable & Wireless emerging markets wireless executive Greg Clarke, who currently heads up property developer Lend Lease.

The company’s plan is to launch an initial constellation of 16 satellites supported by an infrastructure of 2,300 transponders, supplying internet backhaul and 3G cellular backhaul at speeds reaching 10Gbps. Production of the satellites has begun and service activation is scheduled for late 2010.

Last month O3b said it closed the third quarter of 2009 with approximately $600m in contracts for services and has struck a deal with Vizada Networks, a satellite service provider, which will resell O3b capacity to the entire African market.

“We are really excited about our progress this quarter and more importantly, the response of customers to our product portfolio. We are proud to report that we have presold every application we developed for the initial launch of our satellites,” said John Finney, executive vice president of sales and marketing at O3b. “We have listened carefully to our customers ensuring that our services are available to meet advanced network requirements in time for O3b Service activation. This has given customers the assurance that they have a solution that is right for the growth they are anticipating. Our attractive pricing and flexible terms has also made it easy for customers to make purchasing decisions to meet their long term bandwidth requirements.”

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