Taco Cowboy writes "Today, a Russian Soyuz rocket shot the first 4 of 12 satellites in a new constellation that are designed to provide affordable, high-speed Internet to people in nearly 180 'under-connected' countries. The orbiters, part of a project dubbed O3b for the 'other 3 billion' people with restricted Internet access, were built by the Franco-Italian company Thales Alenia Space. They will orbit at 8,062 km and will weigh only 650 kilogrammes (1,400 pounds) each. 'There are already geostationary satellites providing this type of services, but at a prohibitive cost for many end-users. Existing satellites generally obit at an altitude of some 36,000 kilometres (22,000 miles) above Earth, weigh in at a hefty four to six tonnes each, and take much longer to bounce a signal back to Earth—about 500 milliseconds to be exact, according to an O3b document. "It is such a long delay that people speaking over a satellite link will shorten conversations, interactive web has an extremely poor experience and many web-based software programmes just won't function." Crucially, they will communicate with Earth four times faster, said the company, and six would be enough to assure permanent coverage. "O3b's prices will be 30 — 50 percent less than traditional satellite services," said the document. ... Launch company Arianespace, which will put the satellites in orbit, said the O3b constellation will combine "the global reach of satellite coverage with the speed of a fiber-optic network." ... The next four satellites will be launched within weeks, according to Arianespace, and a final four "backup" orbiters early next year.'"