Published On: Mon, Jun 29th, 2015

How OneWeb Plans To Change The Internet


OneWeb plans to offer a new global satellite internet backhaul network.

With huge plans in place to launch a constellation of hundreds of satellites into space over the next few years OneWeb has some pretty ambitious plans to change the internet however on Thursday last week they backed them up with backing from huge global players and the announcement of new manufacturing and launch contracts.

In 2014 four Google employees, Greg Wyler, Brian Holz and David Bettinger left to create a company called WorldVu Satellites which later changed its name to OneWeb. The company released plans in January to surround earth with about 700 satellites by 2019 following the acquisition of rights to transmit across the satellite spectrum. These satellites will sit in a low Earth orbit allowing them to beam the Internet down at speeds rivalling fiber optic cables to all parts of the world.

The affect of such technology could have a massive impact by allowing people in less developed countries to access the internet at higher speeds, offer an alternative network for areas in so called “black spots” and also a resilient back-up service which could be used for natural disasters.

OneWeb, a new leader in the global broadband space race has received a $500m boost after Airbus, Coca-Cola and Virgin Group joined other funders in backing a venture to bring the internet to the most remote corners of the planet.

OneWeb on Thursday revealed a massive $500m funding round from companies Airbus, Coca-Cola, Bharti Enterprises, Intelsat and Grupo Salinas who are to join other backers which include Virgin Group and Qualcomm. Airbus has been commissioned to build 900 micro-satellites designed by OneWeb, the number includes surplus for upgrades and spares.

Other contract announcements include an agreement with ArianeSpace, the world’s largest commercial space launch company, the agreement is for 21 Soyuz rocket launches, beginning in 2017 which should complete full satellite deployment by 2019. Virgin Galactic will also be conducting 39 launches of OneWeb satellites via its satellite launcher system LauncherOne. The contract also reserves an option for 100 more satellite launches from Virgin which is based on the success of the first round as Virgins LauncherOne hasn’t made it to space yet.

The proposed plans are expected to cover much of the globe however it does appear to be lacking around the equator however the presence of Intelsat (who already has a constellation of satellites on the equator) ay signify the use of their services in these locations. Wyler also co-founded O3b which has a network of satellites providing high-speed Internet service to equatorial regions which also highlights the alternative option of a partnership with the two companies.

Wyler said in a statement “We are committed to solving one of the world’s biggest problems—enabling affordable broadband Internet access for everyone.”

What’s unclear about the project is whether such plans will be feasible or ultimately profitable due to hundreds of million/potentially billions of costs associated with such an unprecedented number of satellite launches.

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