OneWeb hardware finally coming together

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MOUNTAIN VIEW, California – After years of raising funds and preparing, OneWeb finally can show the hardware it will rely on to bridge the global digital divide by 2027, said Greg Wyler, OneWeb founder and executive chairman.

At the Satellite Innovation Symposium here, Wyler showed images of satellite components being built in the OneWeb factory in Toulouse, France, and rockets lined up in French Guyana to begin launching the first OneWeb satellites in 2019.

“We are going to launch every 21 days over two years across multiple sites,” Wyler said. “There is an enormous amount of work going on in the background to make that happen.”

Last week, for example, OneWeb simulated its first launch campaign at its Ground Network Operations Center in Virginia. The company plans to establish multiple Ground Network Operations Centers, including one in the United Kingdom.

OneWeb plans to open its second satellite factory in Florida in January. “Like any construction project, we could have more delays,” Wyler said, noting that Hurricane Irma set the construction project back a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, OneWeb is building gateways around the world. “People are installing and connecting them as we speak,” Wyler said.

Even OneWeb’s mega-constellation, whose first satellites are just now being built by the OneWeb-Airbus joint venture OneWeb Satellites in Toulouse, France, doesn’t provide the scale needed to justify the upfront expense of automating assembly. Credit: Airbus
OneWeb’s first satellites are being built by the OneWeb-Airbus joint venture OneWeb Satellites in Toulouse, France. A second factory is under construction in Florida. Credit: Airbus

 

OneWeb’s ambitious plans, which were accelerated by SoftBank’s $1 billion investment, include offering internet access to every school by 2022, attracting one billion subscribers by 2025 and providing total capacity of one petabit per second by 2025.

By 2020, OneWeb plans to offer broadband service throughout the United States and its territories. “We will have a big celebration in 2020 when we bridge the digital divide in Alaska,” Wyler said.

A key to OneWeb’s success will be ensuring its antennas are easy to install for people who speak many different languages and have little access to tools, Wyler said.

Initially, OneWeb plans to offer capacity of 595 megabits per second and round-trip latency of 15 to 50 milliseconds.

Wyler remains committed to offering global broadband access . “You can’t worry whether customers are in India, Indonesia or an island in Fiji,” he said. “Everybody in the world will have access. We have that vision and a way to get there.”