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Live Test of OneWeb’s LEO Satellite Broadband Network Hits 400Mbps

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019 (5:35 pm) - Score 2,857
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British space company OneWeb has just conducted the first live test of their new compact ultrafast broadband satellites in circular Low Earth Orbit (LEO), which achieved top data speeds of up to 400Mbps and a latency time of under 40 milliseconds (very impressive for a space based comms technology).

At present the company has only launched six (OneWeb F6) of their spacecraft (here) into orbit (trial deployment) but if all goes well then they hope to “embark on the largest satellite launch campaign in history.” Starting in Q4 2019, they will begin monthly launches of more than 30 satellites at a time, creating an initial constellation of 650 satellites to enable full global coverage by 2021 (adding more as demand requires – potentially up to 1,980 satellites).

NOTE: A partial commercial service could begin as early as 2020.

Each Airbus built satellite, which is designed to communicate with Earth via the Ka band (20-30GHz) and Ku band (11-14GHz) spectrum, weighs around 150kg+ and is roughly waist high (with solar panels folded-in). Previous reports have suggested that latency times of around 25-35ms and broadband speeds of 100Mbps+ (peak speeds of 500Mbps) may be possible per user.

The first “successful” tests of this new satellite network have now taken place in Seoul (South Korea), which appeared able to deliver peak speeds of 400Mbps and latency times of less than 40ms. By comparison you’d expect latency times of 300ms+ from larger GEO Stationary Orbit (GSO) satellites.

The recent tests were conducted in partnership with Intellian, the developer and manufacturer of OneWeb user terminals and SatixFy, developer and manufacturer of the 125MHz SCPC test modem. The tests included: latency, speed, jitter, seamless handover between satellites and power control.

What was demonstrated during the test?

* Extremely low latency with an average of 32 milliseconds.

* Seamless beam and satellite handovers;

* Accurate antenna pointing and tracking;

* Live streamed an ACDC music video at resolutions up to 1080p (Full HD); and

* Test speed rates of more than 400 Mbps.

Our tests prove that OneWeb will enable very high speed and low latency connectivity everywhere and we are on schedule to offer the service globally in 24 months. OneWeb is going to transform the way we think about connectivity and how we use it,” said Adrian Steckel, CEO of OneWeb.

In fairness it’s worth remembering that these tests were conducted on a network with minimal capacity congestion and in a very limited state of deployment. As a result the figures may not be representative of real-world usage when under load but equally their future spacecraft may yet become more advanced. In any case the speeds and latency performance look extremely promising.

As previously reported there are also other companies competing for dominance in the new market for LEO broadband services, such as SpaceX and Amazon. SpaceX has already launched a larger number of test satellites and we await their first testing results in the near future.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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9 Responses
  1. Avatar Mike

    Any idea of the total capacity per satellite?

  2. Avatar Ed

    Mark, the average latency during the test was 32ms and not 40ms as you suggested. Also, GEO Satellites latency is higher than 550ms and not 300ms as you suggested.

    • The 40ms is a hang up from how the press release used both 40ms and 32ms. I corrected the first paragraph to read “a latency time of under 40 milliseconds” yesterday but forgot about the other one later in the article. My bad.

      As for 300ms, you’ll note I put 300ms+ (plus sign) in the article. This is because some digital GSO’s have in the past claimed 300ms for the link between ground and spacecraft (considered to be about as low as you can get with those), although obviously end-user latency is higher when you add in everything else on top (i.e. real-world experience doesn’t always match the design).

  3. Avatar Guy Cashmore

    Great news and hopefully another nail in the BT rural monopoly coffin!

    • Avatar Optimist

      If this succeeds and is price-competive, it will also sound the end of further fibre rollouts, at least to remote areas.

  4. Avatar New_Londoner

    @Mark
    Any suggestions that BT might use this or one of the other LEO networks to fulfill its USO obligations?

    • At this stage the networks have to be deployed commercially and deliver coverage across the UK before they could even be considered, which won’t happen until after the USO goes live next year. However it does seem entirely possible that if they prove to be a success then Ofcom may in the future add them to the tool kit of options. But right now.. no.

    • Avatar Optimist

      I can’t see any CEO being willing to sink money into fixed-line USO provision when there is a good chance that in a year or two a satellite competitor will totally destroy their business model.

  5. Avatar craski

    For the many who have seen zero benefit from BDUK, fingers crossed these LEO satellite options are actually going to offer a usable data allowance at a fair price.

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