OneWeb company close to taking the internet global
London-based satellite operator OneWeb is in the home straight after putting up another 40 spacecraft this week.
It takes the company’s in-orbit broadband constellation to over 580.
With one more launch in the coming weeks, OneWeb will have enough satellites overhead to deliver an internet connection anywhere on Earth.
The firm has moved rapidly to recover its position after financial collapse at the start of Covid in March 2020.
When the UK government and Indian conglomerate Bharti bought it out of bankruptcy a few months later, it was flying fewer than 80 spacecraft.
The scale-up since then had been nothing short of remarkable, said CEO Neil Masterson, with customers now being served in 15 countries north of 50 degrees in latitude, which includes the UK.
“We issued our first invoice last May, which is obviously a very important moment for us. And as of the end of December, we’ve got $800m in backlog bookings. So we’re cracking on and we’re excited to be expanding around the rest of the world, really showing what this network system can do,” he told BBC News.
Getting into position
It takes a while for newly launched satellites to get properly into position 1,200km above the Earth, to be tested and come online.
Batches that went up last year will extend coverage to the lower 48 US states and the northern Mediterranean come the end of May, and to 25 degrees North (think Mexico, Northern Africa and India) by the end of summer.
The final launches will give broadband connectivity to users at the equator by the year’s end. And this pattern for the Northern Hemisphere is repeated for the major land areas in the Southern Hemisphere, even including Antarctica, once the necessary ground stations are installed to complete the data links.
OneWeb plans to have about 40 nodes up and running at the close of 2023.
The company operates out of a refurbished BBC building on the old stadium site of the 1908 summer Olympics.