According to The Times this morning, Google has teamed up with cable company LibertyGlobal and the HSBC bank in a venture to offer internet access to three billion people in Africa and other emerging markets. This project, O3b Networks, is directed at people for whom broadband internet access is not currently a commercially viable option. Each party has initially invested US$20 million in the project, which is expected to go live by the end of 2010. The three lead backers are apparently reserving the right to contribute further to the estimated $150 to $180 million of equity financing needed for the project, any further financing being funded by debt. This venture could offer bandwidth to customers at just 5 per cent of the existing cost. More to the point, it could offer African internet users a far better way of trading within the continent, establishing local brands at continental level and facilitating the distribution of films and music.