Avanti's ready if Richard Branson's satellites fall to Earth


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The Independent Online

When Will.I.Am flew in to London last month to promote Sir Richard Branson’s pledge to launch 900 internet-beaming satellites, many in the industry were sceptical; still more were furious.

The idea – to create a blanket of low-level satellites to beam internet access to every remote corner of the world – has widely been dismissed as hailing from planet Cuckoo. But it was seen as no joke by more established players. The project’s potentially high-profile failure was regarded by some as jeopardising their future efforts to raise finance for more realistic, smaller projects in this high-risk, capital-intensive industry.

So I’m guessing it’s with some relief that Britain’s Avanti Communications raised $125m today to fund its satellite coverage of Africa before the Branson project falls to Earth. I’ve been concerned about Avanti’s reliance on state aid, but this private funding helps ease those misgivings.

Less ambitious satellite operations, such as Avanti’s, may prove a better way than Sir Richard’s to bring the internet to the world’s poorest countries.