With the goal of expanding broadband Internet access to global populations that lack such service, Google, Liberty Media (LM) and other investors joined forces Tuesday on a venture that would operate a system of 16 medium earth orbit (MEO) satellites that would provide low-cost backhaul services for providers of wireless broadband services in rural and other underserved areas worldwide. Based in the Channel Islands, the company would be known as O3b Networks, which stands for the “other 3 billion” members of the world’s population that still lack Internet access. In addition to Google and LM, other participants in the venture include HSBC and New York investment bank Allen & Co. So far, Google and the other venture partners have invested $65 million in the project that is expected to cost upwards of $750 million. (Sources anticipate that up to 70% of the network’s cost will be funded through the debt markets.) French aerospace concern Thales Alenia has been contracted to build the 16 MEO satellites that are expected to offer transmission speeds of up to 10 gigabytes per second that resemble the speeds of terrestrial fiber networks. O3B, meanwhile, would sign up ISPs in emerging markets throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East that would offer service via the 16-satellite network. The network is expected to go into operation by 2010. Predicting that the initiative could reduce bandwidth costs in emerging markets by as much as 95%, a Google spokesman declared: “this really fits into Google’s mission [to extend Internet use] around the developing world.”