Intelsat has formed a “strategic alliance” with Greg Wyler’s OneWeb scheme to place 650 small satellites in orbit. Intelsat is investing $25 million in the project. OneWeb’s plan, in essence, is to bring improved broadband and Internet services to the planet’s underserved (on non-served) consumers.
A joint statement reads: “The strategic partnership will result in the first and only fully global, pole-to-pole high throughput satellite broadband network. Together, OneWeb and Intelsat will leverage the advantages associated with LEO and GEO orbits to the benefit of customers across vertical sectors.”
“This investment furthers Intelsat’s long-term strategic objective to deliver high performance, improved economics and simplified access with respect to satellite solutions to customers. OneWeb’s decision to deploy in Ku-band, which comprises a significant portion of Intelsat’s in-orbit resources, creates a natural alliance where there is opportunity to create value through the combined scale and interoperability of the two networks.”
The companies will also collaborate to develop hybrid LEO/GEO end-user access terminals, furthering Intelsat’s vision to lower the cost and accessibility of satellite-based broadband and unlock new markets for satellite broadband.
“As the world’s first and largest provider of commercial satellite services, Intelsat believes that the opportunity for space-based communications is at a new inflection point, especially as broadband connectivity has become an essential input to economic growth for individuals, businesses and communities,” said Intelsat CEO, Stephen Spengler. “In this context, we are accessing new technologies and leveraging sector innovations to the benefit of our customers and our network.
“Intelsat’s endorsement of our technology and solution is key to driving our venture to the next phase of development. Our mission is to enable affordable Internet access for everyone,” said Greg Wyler, CEO and Founder of OneWeb. “While the primary goal is to bridge the digital divide for rural areas, we recognise the potential for a seamless Ku-band infrastructure to support other applications as well. The OneWeb and Intelsat alliance allows each company to leverage the strength of the other. We believe that access to Intelsat’s global service and technology footprint, and collaboration on solutions which combine the benefits of LEO and GEO, will advance our mission.”
Separately, Arianespace revealed that OneWeb has signed a contract for 21 Soyuz launches, plus options for five additional Soyuz launches and three Ariane 6 launches. These launches will ensure the timely deployment of the full constellation.
The first launch will take place in late 2017 and the full deployment will be completed by the end of 2019. Arianespace will utilise the Soyuz launch pads from Guiana Space Center, Baikonur and additional launch pads from Russia to ensure the timely deployment. The unique capability of being able to achieve near polar orbit from multiple launch sites using a common launcher along with its proven industrial production were instrumental in the Soyuz selection as a key resource to deploy the constellation on schedule.
The optional Ariane 6 launches will be available to OneWeb starting in 2021 to support the replenishment of the constellation and to allow the transition to the next generation of the OneWeb constellation. OneWeb satellites will weigh less than 150kg. The system will bring more than 10 Tbps of new capacity to rural areas around the globe.
Stéphane Israël, Chairman and CEO of Arianespace, said the company considered it “a great honour” to play such an important role in the deployment of the constellation. “First, the trust placed by OneWeb in Arianespace is simply exceptional, considering the scope of the contract and the stakes it entails. Second, the goal of this constellation, which is to provide mankind with global connectivity everywhere on the planet, is fully in line with one of our main values: Bring space down to Earth for the benefit of all. Many thanks to OneWeb for making Arianespace part of such an exciting project!”
OneWeb satellites will be launched into a near polar orbit at an altitude of 500 kilometers before raising themselves to their operational orbit, giving customers extremely low latency and providing communications access to the entire world with fibre-quality Internet connectivity.