Hundreds Of Countries Set For Internet Boost

The first four satellites will be taken into orbit by the Russian Soyuz rocket in a project to provide high-speed, affordable access to people in around 180 "under-connected" nations.

The launch of the O3b project - named after the "other there billion" people with restricted internet access - is imminent, although it was hit by a 24-hour delay after bad weather conditions.

Users can lock on to the satellites just as they would with GPS handsets.

Greg Wyler, who established the scheme after struggling to get online during a trip to Russia six years ago, said: "Access to the internet backbone is still severely limited in emerging markets, whether landlocked in Africa or isolated by water in the Pacific Islands.

"Only when emerging markets achieve affordable and ubiquitous access to the rest of the world will we observe locally-generated content, widespread e-learning, telemedicine and many more enablers to social and economic growth."

A constellation of small satellites will hover above the equator, covering the entire African continent, the Middle East, Australia, the Pacific Islands, South East Asia and most of Latin America.

Orbiting at around 22,000 miles above Earth, they take roughly half a second to send signals back to the planet.

A further four orbiters will be launched in July, with the final four due to arrive in space next year.

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