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OneWeb Pledge Fibre Like Satellite Broadband Speeds to Arctic Region

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019 (11:34 am) - Score 888
oneweb_leo_satellite_constellation

British registered space company OneWeb has announced that the first area to be covered by their new compact Low Earth Orbit (LEO) ultrafast broadband satellites will be those above the 60th parallel North (Arctic), which might possibly include some of Scotland’s remote north isles.

So far OneWeb has only launched 6 trial spacecraft (here) into orbit but if all goes well then they hope to “embark on the largest satellite launch campaign in history” from Q4 2019. The plan is to launch 30 satellites at a time each month, which would create an initial constellation of 650 to enable full global coverage by 2021 (adding more as demand requires).

The first “successful” tests of this new satellite network took place in July (here) and appeared able to deliver peak speeds of more than 400Mbps, with network latency times averaging just 32ms for a single connection (incredibly impressive for a satellite network where latency performance is usually many times worse).

The fast latency is due to the fact that LEOs orbit much closer to the Earth (c.1200km LEO vs 35,000km+ for large GSO satellites) and will thus decay into the atmosphere after a few years (i.e. design to be easily replaceable).

The big news today is OneWeb has confirmed that they will deliver 375Gbps of total data capacity above the 60th parallel North. With limited commercial service starting in 2020, the operator claims there “will be enough capacity to give fibre-like connectivity to hundreds of thousands of homes, planes, and boats, connecting millions across the Arctic.”

In fairness this does rather depend upon how you define “fibre-like” speeds for end-users, although ultrafast speeds of 100Mbps+ have long been expected for individual users. The announcement also notes that 48% of the Arctic is currently without broadband coverage, although most Arctic foxes and seals probably don’t need internet connectivity but there are plenty of people who could certainly benefit.

Adrian Steckel, OneWeb CEO, said:

“Connectivity is now an essential utility and a basic human right. Our constellation will offer universal high-speed Arctic coverage sooner than any other proposed system meeting the need for widespread connectivity across the Arctic.”

The visualisation of this coverage suggests that it might just be possible for some people living at the most northerly tip of the Shetland Islands to gain access to the new network. We’ve asked OneWeb if they can give an answer on that and will report back. Similarly we don’t yet know what sort of packages and prices will be offered or where consumers might be able to place an order, which should hopefully be announced soon.

However going forward this sort of network is likely to be very useful for remote rural properties in the UK and the Falklands etc. 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 recently launched a large number of test satellites and aims to beat OneWeb.

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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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8 Responses
  1. Avatar Granola

    It doesn’t sound very “Green”, reliable or cheap to run with constant satellite replacement due to them falling out of the sky every few years. By the time global coverage has been acheived the first ones launched will be EOL.

    • Avatar 5G Infinity

      That’s right and the same approach is being used by SpaceX, Leosat etc

    • Avatar Optimist

      That is true but each satellite orbit goes over virtually every spot in the world. It will be interesting to see if this technology is more competitive than many of the fibre schemes being mooted for remote areas.

    • Avatar Adam

      According too wiki, “The satellites in the OneWeb constellation are approximately 150 kg (330 lb) in mass. I suppose a lot of material will be wasted. But i think the positives will outweigh the negatives. Think of all the materials that are required for the current infrastructure. Wood, metal, plastics, rubbers, glass along with a lot of other material. This will pale in comparison.

  2. Avatar Granola

    I was more thinking of the fuel needed to put them in orbit rather than the materials they are made of, but since you mention it, the current infrastructure doesn’t self destruct every few years.

    • Avatar Adam

      I concur. But as i said, it would require far, far less resources compared to our current setup. If things go to plan, that is. How much fuel do we use laying current infrastructure? Tar roads, the equipment the workers drive etc, multiplied about a million times, probably more from all the countries with broadband infrastructure.

    • Avatar Adam

      And by “tar roads” I mean digging to lay fibre, copper, electric supply to provide power to equipment etc..

  3. Avatar craski

    Having seen a number of animations for the SpaceX constellation it is amazing that there is enough free sky for all the different competing LEO constellations being proposed to operate in! It looks like a huge challenge for one operator to manage their own constellation let alone avoid all the others! I still think at least one of these global LEO networks will reach the remote parts of the Scotland long before R100 gets it act together.

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