OneWeb is a planned ‘mega- constellation’ of low-Earth orbiting satellites (at 1200 kms high), and designed to provide high-speed broadband to just about any point on the planet. It is backed financially by Virgin, Qualcomm, Japan’s SoftBank, Coca-Cola and Intelsat amongst others. Its first 10 prototype satellites are being built now in Toulouse, France, and a purpose-built factory (in a joint-venture with Europe’s Airbus) is under construction in Florida to build the initial batches of around 648 satellites, plus spares. But the larger plan calls for another 1972 eventual satellites.
Founder Greg Wyler now says that he is confident of winning 1 billion consumers/subscribers by 2025.
Those first 10 satellites are due to be launched into orbit next year on a Russian Soyuz rocket by Arianespace, where they will prove the concept and secure the frequencies for the scheme.
Wyler also says that the new factory (built almost next-door to the Kennedy Space Centre) is at a well advanced stage and the company is now advertising for technicians, engineers and manufacturing talent in readiness for the site’s opening for business. Eventually the facility will employ about 550 people.
Once the building is in business (in early 2018) Wyler says OneWeb will be launching batches of satellites every 21 days helped by twin production lines turning out a target two satellites a day. The Jeff Bezos Blue Origin rockets will be launching the satellites.
In an interview quoted by specialist trade publication Space Intel Report, Wyler said the business would be selling capacity direct to consumers. He explained that while he still saw considerable commercial opportunities amongst regions that were either not served or poorly served by existing infrastructure he was confident that establishments (including education) in developing countries would be strong buyers of capacity.