OneWeb will add positioning in Gen. 2.0

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Sunil Mittal, executive chairman of OneWeb, has confirmed that the satellite operator will add a global positioning, navigation and timing system onto its 2nd Generation of satellites for a GPS-type service. Mittal’s Bharti is a joint investor with the UK government in OneWeb.

Meanwhile, he said that OneWeb’s current fleet can provide a timing service.

Mittal was addressing the ITU’s (virtual) spectrum allocation event, and asked international governments to speedily grant permissions for OneWeb to establish Earth stations for connectivity and transmission of data.

“A very large number of countries have open-door policies,” said Mittal. “Some of those with tighter control regimes should make LEO availability subject to fulfilling certain conditions to satisfy their legal interception needs, their security and privacy needs — and above all, the cyber issues that plague a lot of countries, to ensure that a proper handshake between each regulatory regime and the constellation provider is in place.”

Mittal’s main trading company Bharti Global is already operating cellular and data services in some 17 countries.

He added: “Our Gen 1 [craft], which is being launched in the coming months, will have the timing built into it. The positioning and navigation will have to wait for Gen 2, which is a couple of years away. But we have the ambition of providing PNT [Positioning, Navigation and Timing] through OneWeb, which will be more accurate and safer from interception than GPS. We believe we will be on this path in the coming years.”

Mittal added that OneWeb’s prime focus was to provide rural broadband globally and in particular reaching enterprise customers, offices and factories, and depots and distribution centres, plus government applications. “My own industry needs a lot of backhauling. We currently use MEO and GEO [satellites] in combination. The experience is very poor. The latency is very high — 560 milliseconds for GEO and just under 300 milliseconds for MEO.”


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