Satellites? Are they nuts? A new satellite-broadband system hopes to succeed where others failed

Making a big, risky investment in these turbulent times might seem a bit daft. And investing in a satellite-broadband project sounds dafter still: billions were lost on similar projects during the 1990s. So why would investors in O3b Networks, a start-up based on the island of Jersey, put €500m ($680m) into another such system — and one which depends on finding customers in the world’s poorest regions?One reason is that O3b has been able to learn from the mistakes made by previous projects, such as Globalstar, Iridium and Teledesic. Over-ambitious, both commercially and technically, they set out to provide global coverage. This meant relying on unproven and complex technology and launching dozens of satellites into low-earth orbit. Although the survivors, Globalstar and Iridium, have long since refocused, they set out to sell their services mainly to consumers and businesses in rich countries.To read this article in The Economist in full, see www.economist.com/business/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12437783.

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