Facebook to bring free internet access to Africa with Avanti

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Facebook is reportedly on the cusp of signing a deal with UK-based satellite communications expert Avanti that will see the two firms deliver free internet access across Africa.

Talks between the companies are said to be at an advanced stage, and are expected to result in a formal announcement soon, according to a report in The Telegraph.

The project's delivery is likely to fall under the remit of Internet.org, an initiative championed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that is geared towards providing the world with access to basic internet services.

It was set up in August 2013 with Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Qualcomm and Samsung as founding partners.

At the time of its launch, the founders said their collective goal was to bring internet access to the "next five billion" people in the world, particularly those living in emerging markets.

"If you increase the number of people in emerging markets with internet access, you can create 100 million jobs [and bring about a] seven per cent drop in child mortality," Zuckerberg said during his keynote speech at Mobile World Congress in February.

Avanti is responsible for selling satellite data communications services to telcos for use by enterprise and consumers.

The firm launched its first satellite in November 2010, and then another in August 2012 that allowed it to extend the scope of internet services it offers to Africa and the Middle East.

At the time of writing, both Facebook and Avanti had declined to comment on the story.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.