O3b Closer all the Time

pic08442_lwRick Russell
Lifeword Associate Director and Chief Programming Officer

About three years ago, we began talking about O3b, a company that was developing a new satellite technology that would provide broadband internet service to the “Other 3 billion” people in the world who do not have it now. (Mostly, those folks are located in Africa, Asia, Central and South America and Newton County, Arkansas.)

Well, all that talking is becoming reality. Last week, Missionary Prashant Prakash and I stood in my office and watched the live internet broadcast of the launch http://www.o3bnetworks.com/o3b-launch and deployment of four additional satellites (the first four went up last summer) which now give O3b the ability to service an area that stretches completely around the world. As we watched, we dreamed about what these developments would eventually mean for Lifeword’s ability to share God’s great news with India and the entire world!

When the project is completely built out, there will be 24 satellites in Medium Earth Orbit, which is about 5,000 miles above the surface of the earth. Older, Geosynchronous Earth Orbit Satellites are positioned about 26,000 miles above the earth. http://www.o3bnetworks.com/o3b-advantage/our-technology The lower altitude and other technological advances make it possible for O3b to provide fiber-optic speed 3g internet service to mobile phone companies at a cost many times lower than the current cost. And the latency problem (the delay that is caused by the time it takes for a signal to travel up to the satellite and back again) will disappear almost entirely.

After a short period of testing, O3b’s worldwide service will finally begin. Then, it’s basically a matter of how long it takes local phone companies to sign on to the service and how soon the average Jose’ and Jun can afford to add internet access to their mobile phone plans. But here is an interesting statistic from the World Bank that may encourage governments to do what they can to provide incentives to move their people to broadband internet service. The World Bank studied the years between 2000 and 2006 and found that each 10% increase in a developed nation’s broadband access resulted in a 1.21% increase in that country’s Gross Domestic Product. In poor countries, the GDP increased by 1.38%! That is a formula that will go a long way toward helping local churches support their own pastors and missionary efforts.

Pray for Lifeword as we continue to press hard to be ready to take advantage of the additional reach that O3b will eventually provide. Imagine a 24-7 internet Lifeword-Swahili radio station capable of reaching nearly every individual in the world who speaks Swahili (or any other language). Imagine the effectiveness of a constant stream of winsome programs, messages and personalities that present Jesus Christ as the answer to mankind’s thorniest problems and provide instant on-demand access to phone support, follow-up materials and counseling services. Preparing for those internet radio streams is the ultimate goal of Lifeword’s Low Power FM initiative.

When one of our tiny FM radio stations goes on the air, the immediate benefit is that it helps that local church grow and reproduce itself more effectively as it better serves its surrounding community. (Our LPFMs typically cover a circle that is about 5-7 miles in diameter.) Each LPFM radio station will, of course, play the daily Lifeword programs in each of the local, indigenous languages as well as the new Lifeword Special English program which features the teaching of Dr E Harold Henderson at about a 20% slower speed, slowly spoken announcements, and a built-in glossary to help new English speakers add to their English vocabulary as they add to their Biblical understanding.

But that’s just the beginning of what these little LPFM stations are designed to do.

Lifeword’s indigenous LPFM leaders strongly encourage each station to produce much of its own programming—even reaching into the non-Christian community to create a variety of interesting community service programs on subjects that range from purely gospel programming to local civics issues, cooking programs, drama productions and “how-to” programs that give insights on the raising of healthy goats, fish, cattle, etc.. Lifeword workers then collect and archive those locally produced programs, repackaging the best of them to share with the other LPFMs in that language group.

Eventually those locally produced, indigenous programs will make up much of the programming on that 24-7 radio station that will be available to every person in the world who has broadband internet access on his mobile phone.

Even those folks in Newton County, Arkansas!

Note: If you would like to have a front row seat as Lifeword’s LPFM project grows, search for the Lifeword Low Power FM Facebook Group and ask to become a member.

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