OneWeb's new satellite constellation is being built with a mission to close the global digital divide by 2027, bringing speeds of up to 2.5 Gbps direct to homes around the world, according to the company's Founder and Executive Chairman, Greg Wyler.
Wyler testified on October 25 before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Technology at a hearing entitled "The Commercial Satellite Industry: What's Up and What's on the Horizon." Wyler discussed OneWeb's approach to providing broadband internet through the firm's global satellite constellation, which will service Alaska starting in 2019, and in the following year, the constellation coverage will reach every square mile of America and territories, leaving no one behind. In June of this year, OneWeb received the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) first approval for market access to launch satellites and ultimately provide internet services to Americans.
Wyler's testimony detailed some of the early accomplishments of OneWeb, which included breaking ground on a new $85 million satellite production facility in Exploration Park, Florida, that will manufacture the firm's satellites and ultimately employ 250 people. The facility, opening in 2018, will be capable of producing 15 satellites per week and will have tremendous multiplier effects for the regional economy.
"OneWeb is moving full speed ahead to bridge the digital divide and bring high-speed Internet to some of the most remote corners of the globe," said Wyler. "I welcome the Senate's interest in the future of satellite technology, and how lawmakers, regulators, and private industry can work together to ensure sustainable space development. OneWeb looks forward to deploying high-performance satellite technology to boost connectivity, create jobs, and ensure economic prosperity reaches rural America and the world's rural populations."
Other highlights from Wyler's testimony include...
- Years before any other applicant, OneWeb designed and filed for the first non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) system capable of providing low cost consumer broadband;
- OneWeb has raised nearly $2 billion in equity from shareholders with deep industry and distribution expertise, including Qualcomm, Hughes, Intelsat, Coca-Cola, Airbus Group, the Virgin Group, and the Softbank Group;
- OneWeb is one of the world's largest launch purchasers and has reserved and/or manifested launch capacity from Blue Origin, Arianespace and Virgin Galactic;
- OneWeb innovated the first low-cost, high performance NGSO satellites for mass production, leading to the opening of the facility in Florida.
Wyler also outlined some of the challenges facing OneWeb and a burgeoning satellite industry, including space debris and overlapping constellations. He said that bridging the Digital Divide must include sustainable development. This means bridging the divide without harming space for future generations. The industry cannot overlap constellations in a way that would risk creating space debris, or endanger people on Earth by using less expensive materials which do not degrade on re-entry. OneWeb has been focused on sustainable space development since the beginning.
OneWeb's rockets are in place and the first launch is scheduled for May of next year. This global system will mean a brighter future for the half of America with substandard access to the internet, primarily in rural areas, and will be a foundation for ubiquitous 5G service, enabling the Internet of Things (IoT), connected vehicles, telemedicine and online education.
With the addition of new constellations over time, OneWeb plans to fully bridge the digital divide by 2027,through an investment that could reach $30 billion.