With growing demand for broadband connectivity services among telecommunications providers, aviation and maritime markets, internet service providers (ISPs) and governments worldwide, low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite communications provider OneWeb has confirmed the successful deployment of 34 new satellites, hitting two-thirds of its planned 648 LEO fleet that will deliver connectivity.
Formed in 2012 with the aim of addressing the connectivity needs of underserved communities, OneWeb has always claimed that its satellite network has a unique capability to provide improved capacity, mobile resilience, backhaul and coverage, including fixed wireless access, in challenging geographic locations.
The company developed “cutting-edge” satellite technology from its bases in the UK and the US, emulating Elon Musk’s Starlink project, with a constellation of global gateway stations and a range of user terminals to provide an affordable, fast, high-bandwidth, low-latency communications service to the most hard-to-reach places globally, connected to internet of things (IoT) devices and making a pathway for mass adoption of 5G services.
However, the company’s evolution was one of struggle, and it filed for bankruptcy in the US in March 2020 after failing to find private investment. It was rescued by a $500m investment from the UK government and Bharti Global, and returned to business in December 2020 with a 36-satellite payload.
Since its resurrection, the company has accelerated growth. In November 2021, it announced the latest in a series of investments and partnerships with BT as part of the leading UK telco’s vision to enable digital solutions anywhere in the country by 2028, agreeing terms for a new distribution partner agreement to provide LEO satellite communication services across the group.
Other recent distribution partnership agreements include those with Hughes Network Systems, Marlink and Field Solutions Holdings. OneWeb is expected to deliver global coverage by June 2022 through the constellation of 648 LEO satellites.
The latest launch, by Arianespace from the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, French Guiana, is OneWeb’s first in 2022 and 13th overall, bringing its total in-orbit constellation to 428 satellites. OneWeb’s satellites separated from the rocket and were dispensed in nine batches over a period of three hours, 33 minutes, with signal acquisition on all 34 satellites confirmed.
“Our first launch of the year marks our significant progress in completing a truly global LEO network later in 2022,” commented OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson. “We continue to see growing demand for OneWeb’s industry-leading services as we look forward to delivering on our ambition to build robust, secure, global access to broadband services.”
OneWeb dedicated this latest launch to its commitment to Responsible Space, its belief that space is a shared natural resource and it is up to all actors to help safeguard it for use today and by future generations. The initiative is comprised of three core elements: committing to responsible design and operations; sustaining the space ecosystem to support new technologies to advance in this area; engaging in advancing policy outcomes to balance growing the space economy while ensuring its protection.
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