You may have never heard of OneWeb before, but it is one of the biggest internet companies around! That’s because they specialize in supporting governments and businesses. They provide internet access wherever possible via satellites.
OneWeb hasn’t always had it easy. It is the tale of two halves, from a failing start-up to a major satellite communications company.
They returned with their successful satellites after setbacks caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. Keep reading to stay up to date!
What Is OneWeb Satellite?
OneWeb Satellite provides high-speed Internet access through a global network of satellites. Governments and businesses connect to the fast internet no matter where they are.
From 2016 onward, OneWeb planned launching launch 30–36 each month. These satellites circle in a low Earth orbit (LEO).
OneWeb’s satellites are closer to Earth than existing geostationary satellite constellations.
So they will provide much faster transmission speeds than existing LEO constellations. OneWeb claimed its satellites could provide 10x faster internet in the coming years.
How the Satellites Operate
The satellites operate in 12 near-polar orbit planes at an altitude of 1,200 km (750 mi) at 86.4° orbital. In doing so, they provide a useful service only when they are also in the range of a gateway ground station.
User service is in the Ku-band, and links to gateway ground stations are in the Ka-band. OneWeb chose a 1,200 km altitude because there is a small existing population of debris at that altitude.
In July 2019, OneWeb opened a factory outside NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Airbus is the company’s joint venture partner. During this time, the factory produced eight satellites per week.
Whenever the satellites’ life span approaches the end, they deorbit themselves. In doing so, they burn up in the atmosphere when they reach Earth’s atmosphere.
How Does OneWeb Work?
Satellites work like any other communication device. You send out signals from your transmitter. In turn, these travel across space until they arrive at another receiver.
The signal bounces off the surface of the earth or passes through the ionosphere. This process repeats itself over and over again as long as you keep sending out signals.
Satellite technology has been around for decades now. But most people don’t know how it works. So let’s take a look inside:
- A transmitter sends out radio waves into outer space
- Radio waves bounce off objects such as clouds, or mountains
- When these waves hit something solid, they reflect towards the source
- If the object isn’t too far away, you can receive the reflected wave on the same frequency
- That means there’s an echo of our original message
- Now special equipment helps decide the message
- Once we receive them, we repeat steps 2 – 6 to send new information
- And voila! Our message gets transmitted around the world
- You have to ensure that everyone uses the same frequencies
- To avoid interference between different users, one channel goes to government agencies while another goes to schools
Of course, technology is now into the 21st century with mass-scale and possibilities. But there’s no denying that OneWeb is on a path to mass-producing satellites.
So, what are the benefits of this project? Let’s take a look.
What are the Benefits of OneWeb’s Satellite Project?
Satellite technology has been around for decades now. But not all countries can afford or use them.
That’s why OneWeb exists. The idea behind OneWeb is to make affordable broadband available everywhere on earth.
It does this by providing an alternative way to get online. That means people who live in remote areas don’t need to rely on mobile data networks alone. Instead, they can still connect using satellite technology.
The large-scale operations of OneWeb mean its producing 15 satellites a week. Further, it’s pioneering the production of spacecraft. In doing so, it aims to become the first commercial operator of Ka-band satellite services.
That’s important as it allows more users to enjoy these new technologies.
Another reason why OneWeb is such a big deal is that it offers lower costs than other solutions. Much of that is down to its large-scale operation. But it’s also a well-executed strategy involving funding from some of the biggest names.
For example, SpaceX launched Starlink into space last year. Yet, it cost 10 billion dollars. And while it provided lower prices, it wasn’t as reliable as what OneWeb offered.
SpaceX’s plan failed due to technical issues. So far, OneWeb has proven itself over and over again to be a reliable project that’s going to change the internet landscape and skyscape for years to come.
Faster Internet Access
With its constellation of satellites, OneWeb plans to offer higher-speed connections than others. They aim to do this with their Ku-Band frequencies.
These frequencies have tested this with success, proving how well they work. Signals can now move across distances never imagined before.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, OneWeb Global Limited filed for bankruptcy. This bankruptcy occurred in the Southern District of New York on 27 March 2020. OneWeb Global said the decision is a result of the financial strain caused by the pandemic.
A total of 85% of the company’s approximately 500 employees lost their jobs. Yet, the company continued to control its operational satellites during the court protection.
An auction to buy the bankrupt company was a success on 3 July 2020 by a consortium. This partnership included Bharti Global and the United Kingdom government.
On November 20, 2020, OneWeb announced the appointment of Neil Masterson as the new Oneweb CEO. He was the chief operating officer at Thomson Reuters.
How Is Oneweb Now Funded?
Since the takeover, OneWeb has changed its strategy. Over time, OneWeb investors take Oneweb stocks from the Government of the United Kingdom. Bhati Global will also reduce its shares as part of the funding deal.
SoftBank and Hughes Network Systems contributed $400 million in January 2021. As a result of this next round of funding, SoftBank received a board seat at OneWeb. By mid-2022, the company would not deploy its constellation to the desired extent.
This setback was due to insufficient funds. The company has funding available to support its first-generation fleet of 648 satellites. The chairman of OneWeb said about $1 billion more would need investing. But he did not foresee difficulties in raising this amount.
OneWeb launched the sixth batch of OneWeb satellites in April 2021. A total of 36 units deployed, bringing the number of satellites into orbit to 182.
They also reported that Eutelsat invested £400M in the company in exchange for a 24% equity stake. Eutelsat’s stake dropped to 19.3% when Bharti Global acquired its holding in June 2021.
UK Space Agency and Oneweb
The UK Space Agency approached a consortium of companies led by OneWeb. Their mission was to develop a beam-hopping satellite. That means that the satellite can change its coverage area as needed. Among the consortium members are SatixFy, Celestia UK, and Astroscale UK.
OneWeb recently announced plans for acquiring American provider TrustComm. As a result of the sale, OneWeb became a distribution partner for the government sector.
OneWeb’s seventh launch in May 2021 took the number of satellites in orbit to 218. That’s the second-largest fleet behind Starlink.
Bharti Global increased its holding in OneWeb to 38.6% in June 2021. To do so, they invested another $500million. Hanwha Systems invested $300 million to buy an 8.8% stake in OneWeb in August 2021.
That allowed the company to appoint one director. Further, they were able to use its dual-use satellite technology and defense capabilities.
OneWeb’s Future Looks Bright
Now that OneWeb has received full funding, it can deploy its satellite network. Additionally, they have agreements to provide services through Eutelsat and other major operators. Their ground segment infrastructure is expansive, and they are preparing for commercial operations.
Also, OneWeb has been working with NASA since 2018. In 2019, they signed a contract worth up to $2billion. It allows them to build a low Earth orbit system. These include communications relay stations, weather monitoring systems, and navigation aids.
As well as these partnerships, OneWeb has secured contracts with several governments.
For example, they partnered with the Indian Ministry of Defense for communications. And they worked with the U.S. Department. All this shows their commitment to providing internet in most rural areas.
OneWeb Satellite Project Connects Everyone
Despite Oneweb’s rough start, the future is looking up. New funding and the Oneweb new CEO that’s ready to drive the business forward helped. Those invested in Oneweb once again that the Oneweb Satellite Project will take to the skies!
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