O3b To Provide Links to Nigerian Oil Rigs

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PARIS — Startup satellite operator O3b Networks will provide broadband links to Nigeria’s Netcom Africa for ships and offshore energy platforms in a multiyear, multimillion-dollar contract that both companies announced Oct. 8.

The contract, whose precise terms were not disclosed, marks the first time O3b has lined up a customer for a specific industrial market. The company has a backlog of $600 million from telecommunications operators in Africa, Asia and South America.

Based in Britain’s Channel Islands, O3b is expected to close a $1.1 billion financial package in the coming weeks. The company is backed by SES of Luxembourg, one of the world’s largest satellite operators, and has contracted with Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy to build an initial batch of eight satellites, followed by 12 more.

The satellites will use an unusual medium Earth orbit covering the equator, where its customer base of telecommunications operators in less-developed nations is located. It remains unclear when the first satellites will be launched, with a final date to be determined once the financial package is secured, O3b officials have said.

For Nigeria, the O3b contract “will allow us to offer a quality of service to our oil and gas customers operating in the Niger Delta region that was never possible before. Our services will be available in every part of the region, including onshore and deep offshore, using cutting-edge, motion-stabilized antenna systems,” Netcom Africa Chief Technology Officer Yen Choi said in an Oct. 8 statement.

Numerous high-capacity submarine cable lines have been activated on the African coast in the past couple of years, with more to come. But O3b said oil and gas producers are still struggling to secure high-bandwidth links, hence the need for satellite links.

O3b said its Ka-band satellite capacity will be delivered over Nigeria’s capital, Lagos, and to the Niger Delta region and an offshore oil rig population of about 50 platforms.