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OneWeb plans May 2018 launch

October 31, 2017

OneWeb is a proposed mega-constellation of an initial 648 low-orbiting satellites designed to bring affordable broadband access to the whole planet.  Eventually, OneWeb is planning a total of 4425 satellites in its fleet.

Founder Greg Wyler, speaking last week before the USA’s Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Technology, said the first two test satellites will be orbited in May next year, and following in-orbit testing a debut service will start over Alaska in 2019. By 2020 OneWeb should be delivering 2.5 Gb/s of service ‘direct to homes’ across America.

Wyler updated the Senate Committee on progress at OneWeb’s satellite-building factory in Exploration Park, Florida (very near the Kennedy Space Centre) would open next year and would be capable of building 15 satellites a week, itself a record for the industry.

The constellation will launch in three kay batches, and in the process take capacity from an overall – and already impressive – 7 Terabites to a massive 1000 Tb/s. The ‘first generation’ of OneWeb’s fleet would offer 500 Mb/s, and be followed in 2021 with super-fast broadband of some 2.5 Gb/s. Wyler told senators that by the time his third generation of satellites would launch (2023) would support 1 billion consumers.

“OneWeb is moving full speed ahead to bridge the digital divide and bring high-speed Internet to some of the most remote corners of the globe,” said Wyler. “I welcome the Senate’s interest in the future of satellite technology, and how lawmakers, regulators, and private industry can work together to ensure sustainable space development. OneWeb looks forward to deploying high-performance satellite technology to boost connectivity, create jobs, and ensure economic prosperity reaches rural America and the world’s rural populations.”

However, the so-called ‘Digital Divide’ will take a few years to fully materialise. While OneWeb has secured launch capacity on the Jeff Bezos-backed Blue Origin rocket system, as well as with Arianespace and Virgin Galactic, the company’s strategy talks about the planet not being fully covered – with ground stations as well as orbital satellites – until 2027.

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