How Facebook's internet beaming satellite will work

EutelsatFacebookEutelsat workers building a satellite.

Facebook is partnering with the European satellite company Eutelsat to beam the internet to large parts of sub-Saharan Africa that don’t currently have access.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the news on his Facebook page last week that the company will use Eutelsat’s Amos-6 satellite to provide the coverage.

“The Amos-6 satellite is under construction now and will launch in 2016 into a geostationary orbit that will cover large parts of West, East and Southern Africa,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page.

The move is part of Facebook’s Internet.org

, a non-profit initiative to bring free internet services to people around the world.

Here’s how the satellite will work.

The satellite Facebook is using, the Amos-6, will launch in 2016.

Eutelsat

It will provide coverage to large parts of east, west, and southern Africa. The satellite is currently under construction.

The Amos-6 satellite will use the same technology as Eutelsat's KA-SAT, which orbits over Europe.

Eutelsat/ Corporate Brochure

Eutelsat currently has 39 satellites in orbit. The image above shows the orbital position of each device.

The KA stands for 'Kurz Above,' which refers to satellites that transmit a higher radio frequency.

Facebook

The KA band satellites use a frequency that is 26.5 to 40 GHz. Satellites that use a KU band -- referring to Kurz Unten or 'underneath' -- use lower frequencies in the 12 to 18 GHz range. The lowest frequency range a Eutelsat will use -- known as L band satellites, like 'low' -- is in the 1 to 2 GHz range.

Why does a higher frequency matter?

Well, the higher the frequency the more bandwidth you can squeeze out of the system. And more bandwidth means a faster internet service.

That frequency is transmitted in small spot beams that will cover parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Eutelsat

The Amos-6 will provide service to the orange spot beams depicted in the photo. By transmitting the frequencies in a lot of small spot beams that cover an area, instead of one large spot beam, the transmittance is more powerful.

Users that fall within one of these small spot beams will receive the internet if they have a satellite dish outside of their building and a modem inside connected to a computer.

Eutelsat

The above photo is the equipment used in Europe for the KA-SAT satellite, but users in Africa will have a different dish and modem setup that has not been determined yet.

The dish outside the building will receive and transmit data back and forth with the satellite.

Facebook

It is unclear who will be supplying the dish to the buildings, but Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page, 'We're going to work with local partners across these regions to help communities begin accessing internet services provided through satellite.'

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