One of the next technology frontiers is to get worldwide Internet coverage based on satelite network. There are several projects in that direction and this article will cover only one of them- One Web.
The list of the investors is pretty impressive. First who is not there- Elon Musk (Tesla) was part of it but left to focus in the same direction by investing in another company- SpaceX.
If he would have stayed he would have been together with Sir Richard Branson (Virgin), Paul Jacobs (Qualcomm), Thomas Enders (Airbus), Sunil Bharti Mittal (Bharti Airtel), Ricardo Salinas (Grupo Salinas), and Ronald Fisher (SoftBank) The venture supported also by Coca Cola, Totalplay and Hughes Network Systems.
With such group of companies securing financing is really peace of cake. In December Last year OneWeb has raised $1.2 billion in an investor round led by SoftBank. Japan-based SoftBank, owner of Sprint in US and has a stake in Alibaba, invested $1 billion of the total $1.2 billion.
Earlier last year, in June, the company raised $500 million. The forecast is that the cost ofthe 900 satelites will be between $2,5-3,5 billion. Additional financing is expected from export-credit agencies.
OneWeb is aiming to achieve Gigabit per second speeds, lower latencies, and affordable self-installed terminals (pending patent approval). The goal is to bridge the digital divide by 2027.
The boundless low latency broadband access should be available for homes, connected cars, trains, planes and cellular backhaul applications.
The current plan is to offer the broadband service in 2019 and the first satellites will be launched in early 2018.
The technical solution
OneWeb’s satellites will be closer to the earth allowing for better web performance and will logically interlock with each other to create a coverage footprint over the entire planet.
The satellites will connect to small law cost user terminals on the grounds. There is no information on the solution as it is pending patent approval. But the goal is to be able to offer everything from 2G to 5G and Wi-Fi.
One Web will use the 12-18 GHz spectrum and has developed technology called “Progressive Pitch™” (still pending patent). This solution will allow to unlock the spectrum in the most efficient way so to avoid interference.
Currently this spectrum, known also as Ku band is used by NASA’s Tracking Data Relay Satellite, for TV broadcasting and some others.
What we don’t know
As nobody has seen the technology in action it is still early to say what will be the speeds that it will offer. It is very interesting to see the price for the terminals and the service. If the price and quality are affordable that can be a great solution for low populated areas and can decrease the cost of building a network for mobile operators significantly.
This race has also other competitors. Stay tune for more articles on this subject.