OneWeb submits application for space-based Internet
OneWeb LLC recently submitted its application for satellite-based Internet operations to the Federal Communications Commission. The application seeks access to the U.S. market for the company’s planned low-Earth orbit satellite constellation.
“The Federal Communications Commission’s grant of our petition will bring OneWeb closer to providing the remaining 4.2 billion people access to high-speed Internet,” said Matt O’Connell, CEO of OneWeb, in an April 28 press release. “It will also help realize the commission’s vision and [the] promise of broadband for everyone in the U.S.”
O’Connell said the company’s satellite constellation will help close the digital gap between developing and developed regions and will align their objectives with public initiatives and goals.
The OneWeb system is designed to provide Internet access the more than 4.2 billion people who have limited or no access to high-speed data services. Additionally, when the system is fully deployed, it will also provide some services in the U.S. including mobility services, cellular backhaul, Internet access for communities, and emergency communications.
The satellite constellation is planned to orbit above Earth at 800 miles (approximately 1,200 kilometers). This altitude will allow for low-latency Internet access. According to OneWeb, this latency is equivalent to Earth-based systems in use today.
The low latency will be a requirement for broadband access given the prevalence of cloud computing, gaming, and stock trading. The system will use low-cost Ku-band user terminals and adds Ka-band gateway antennas to connect with the constellation.
A sticking point with the satellite system has been the use of the Ku-band spectrum and its possible interference with geostationary satellites. To overcome these obstacles, OneWeb has designed a unique progressive pitch technology that changes the power level of the satellites as the cross the equator.
According to the OneWeb FCC application, this power reduction coupled with an orientation change should allow the constellation to run without major interference to other higher orbit satellites. The application states that the company will comply with both the commission’s rules and the International Telecommunication Union’s requirements.
The company is supported in this endeavor by a cadre of large companies including Airbus Group, The Coca-Cola Company, Echostar, Intelsat, and many others. Collectively they have provided over $500 million in financing to OneWeb.
OneWeb is not the only company seeking to create an orbital Internet system. SpaceX announced their intent to create a 4,000 satellite constellation in January of 2015. Their satellites and pizza box-sized receivers are also designed to bring broadband Internet to the bulk of the world’s population. SpaceX has financial backing from Alphabet, the parent company of Google.
Another firm, ViaSat, is also working on a space-based Internet constellation using fewer satellites placed in a higher orbit. ViaSat currently serves several airline companies, such as JetBlue, providing them with in-flight Wi-Fi.
Joe Latrell is a life-long avid space enthusiast having created his own rocket company in Roswell, NM in addition to other consumer space endeavors. He continues to design, build and launch his own rockets and has a passion to see the next generation excited about the opportunities of space exploration. Joe lends his experiences from the corporate and small business arenas to organizations such as Teachers In Space, Inc. He is also actively engaged in his church investing his many skills to assist this and other non-profit endeavors.