Wyler’s OneWeb thinking

Greg Wyler, the original thinker behind O3b’s mission to capture the “other 3 billion” underserved or unconnected people of the planet, used the Washington Sat-2015 show to explain his new mission as head of OneWeb, and a plan to serve the other 3 billion via his OneWorld strategy with a constellation of 648 active LEO satellites (at 1200 kms), plus another 250 in construction (for replacements/redundancy) and at a cost of about $400,000 each.

Wyler, in a special presentation at last week’s Washington show, demonstrated how a Rockwell Collins-designed snazzy rooftop all-in-one antenna could serve a village or even larger community from a central point.

OneWeb has attracted funding and participation from Qualcomm and Sir Richard Branson, and currently is talking to 5 potential suppliers.  A decision could emerge in April as to the successful bidder. Thales Alenia, one of the bidders, says it would build an all-new facility if it won its bid.  Wyler wants the first launches to take place in 2017.

Wyler and his team had back-to-back meetings at the show and five bidders emerged as potential suppliers including a trio of Europeans and two American players, each keen to get their hands on what will be a major contract.

Airbus Defence & Space, OHB and Thales Alenia Space are the European trio, while Space System/Loral and Lockheed Martin are the US pair. The pre-bidders will not have to wait too long, as it emerged during the show that a decision could be made next month.

The intention is to then to form a j-v with the winning bidder, and build a dedicated factory to turn out satellites at an unprecedented rate. Thales, for example, says it would need to manage two a day in order to get an initial working constellation into space by 2017 in order to secure and ‘bring into use’ the ITU-authorised frequencies. The bulk of the satellites would launch in 2018.

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