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03b Networks plans Africa internet rollout by 2013

JOHANNESBURG, Nov 29 (Reuters) - 03b Networks, backed by Google GOOG.O, HSBC Principal Investments HSBA.L and cable operator Liberty Global LBTYA.O, will launch high-speed Internet services Africa to tap into one of the world's potentially fastest growing markets.

The company said on Monday it has secured $1.2 billion from investors and banks for its satellite project to provide cheap, high-speed broadband access in 2013.

Funding of the project consists of additional equity from existing shareholders and new funds from Development Bank of Southern Africa, Africa Development Bank, International Finance Corporation and other investors.

“This has allowed us to achieve our goal of reaching the billions who have so far been poorly served or completely cut off from the Internet -- the greatest business and information resource of our time,” Mark Rigolle, chief executive of O3b, said in a statement.

Africa is the only place in the world not connected to the global broadband infrastructure, making telephone calls and internet access very expensive.

There are more than 110 million internet users in Africa as of June 30, representing 5.6 percent of the world’s total users, according to Internet World Stats.

South Africa, Africa’s biggest economy, has more than 5 million internet users, representing 4.8 percent of Africa’s total users, compared with 43 million users in Nigeria, representing 39.6 percent of the continent’s total users. (Reporting by Gugulakhe Lourie, Editing by Louise Heavens)

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