A senior official at Russia’s Satellite Communications Company (RSCC) says that the proposed OneWeb satellite mega-constellation is unlikely to be commercially successful.
Yevgeny Buidinov, deputy director general at RSCC told Russian news agency TASS that he believed that the project to place some 900 satellites into orbit was perfectly realistic from a technical point of view,but commercial take-up was another matter.
“Multi-satellite constellations, providing personal communication services, have already been in operation for quite a while, and almost all major satellite system projects have gone through the stage of bankruptcies and acquisitions. It will be very hard to create a commercially successful system with such a great number of satellites. A minimal number of users for such a system should be counted in hundreds of millions. Besides, user devices available at costs not exceeding $100-$500 should also be designed, which is impossible at the moment. Besides, prices for their services should be comparable to those provided by cellular service providers,” he said.
OneWeb is working with financial backing from Japanese media conglomerate SoftBank plus other support from Intelsat, Airbus, Virgin Group, Qualcomm and others to place an initial 648 satellites into Low Earth Orbit about 750 miles up (1200 kms) and serving millions of potential users with no (or low) broadband connectivity.
Buidinov explained his scepticism, which focussed on improved terrestrial supply of broadband: “50 per cent of the planet’s population lives within the 200-kilometre coastal zone, while 70 per cent of the global population inhabit 7 per cent of the global territory. It turns out that the efficiency of a truly global coverage will be fairly low due to a low number of users. At the same time, densely populated areas with great demand and capacity to pay, already have ground-based mobile service operators, which by that time will switch to the new 5G standard,” he said.