Low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite communications company OneWeb has announced a series of deals to continue its satellite broadband offer, most notably teaming up with Starlink.
Formed in 2012 with the aim of addressing the connectivity needs of under-served 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 said demand for its broadband connectivity services has continued to grow across telecommunications providers, aviation and maritime markets, and governments worldwide. It expects to attain global coverage with a total fleet of 648 satellites by the end of 2022 as part of its five to 50 mission to cover regions north of 50 degrees latitude, including the UK, Canada, Alaska and the Arctic region.
The agreement with Elon Musk’s Starlink will enable OneWeb to resume satellite launches, the first of which is expected this year and will add to OneWeb’s total in-orbit constellation, which currently stands at 428 satellites – two-thirds of the total intended fleet.
Terms of the agreement are confidential, but OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson said: “We thank SpaceX for their support, which reflects our shared vision for the boundless potential of space. With these launch plans in place, we are on track to finish building out our full fleet of satellites and deliver robust, fast, secure connectivity around the globe.”
In September 2021, OneWeb confirmed the completion of substantial investment by French satellite operator Eutelsat and, in the latest part of the firms’ partnership, Eutelsat has sealed a global, multi-year distribution partnership agreement (DPA) for OneWeb capacity, paving the way for it to commercialise OneWeb services across key verticals, including maritime, aviation, enterprise, telcos and government. It will also include the development of 5G and cloud technologies that will generate low-latency requirements.
The partnership is said to reflect the deepening cooperation between the two companies after Eutelsat became OneWeb’s second-largest shareholder in December 2022, and is said to showcase the synergies between them, delivering Eutelsat’s commercial reach to OneWeb while complementing Eutelsat’s fleet of geostationary satellites with LEO assets. It is also said to provide a way for the companies to work together on developing combined GEO/LEO connectivity systems.
Having established a framework for communication in the Northern Hemisphere, OneWeb is now looking to provide satellite gateway services in the Southern Hemisphere and has signed a deal with Australian telco Telstra, which itself is expanding its presence in the rapidly growing satellite telecommunications market, building and maintaining three new dedicated teleports in the country.
These facilities are being delivered as part of a 10-year deal between Telstra and OneWeb which includes designing, building and activating the teleports with ground station capabilities to meet OneWeb’s requirements. Telstra will also provide 24/7 monitoring and quality assurance services at each location. Earlier this month, OneWeb signed a memorandum of understanding with Telstra to explore new connectivity systems for Australia and the Asia Pacific region.
The first of the new teleports, located in Darwin Tivendale, is scheduled to begin installation in March 2022, with go-live planned in July. Two further sites – Charlton, Toowoomba, Queensland, and Wangara, Perth, Western Australia – are planned for completion later this year. Each facility will provide turnkey ground station support for OneWeb’s LEO satellites.
“OneWeb had exacting requirements from the outset, and we worked in close partnership with them from site selection through construction,” said Vish Vishwanathan, vice-president wholesale and satellite at Telstra Americas. “Teleports are complex sites involving access to secure and resilient infrastructure and on-the-ground expertise, which Telstra has provided to OneWeb throughout this project.”
Michele Franci, chief of delivery and operations at OneWeb, added: “LEO satellite technology is transforming the global connectivity landscape, not only by creating new business opportunities, but also giving more businesses, communities and governments the internet access they need for progress. More connectivity options benefit everyone and our approach in establishing strategic partnerships with experienced providers like Telstra is core to how we deliver the OneWeb mission.”