Space-based Internet service from satellites prepares to go into service

Two systems of satellites could bring high-speed Internet to the tropics from space. The first network is due to go into service later this year.

The system went into orbit last week in French Guiana. The system involves eight satellites that will be in low earth orbit. It is the  O3B  or Other 3 Billion satellite system called that because one of its goals is bringing Internet to many remote areas that are not now served.

Rival Inmarsat will launch a satellite Internet system called Global Xpress later this year.

The O3b satellites will provide Internet coverage anywhere within 45 degrees of latitude north and south of the equator. The firm said that the satellites will be placed within two weeks and that testing will follow.

The company is promising Internet speed similar to fiber optic cables and says the service will be cheaper than the current cable technology.

Its backers include Google and the Development Bank of Southern Africa, among others.

Costa Rica, of course, is well within the range of the satellite coverage. The firm said that its satellites will carry voice and data, too.

The service by O3B appears to replace undersea cables and not the local Internet or cell telephone provider. Undersea cables are vulnerable to damage. But so, too, are satellites.

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