Richard Branson’s satellite Internet venture OneWeb has moved a step closer to becoming a reality after it secured $500 million (£318m) in funding from its partners and completed what it claims is the “largest commercial rocket acquisition ever.”
OneWeb hopes to launch in 2019, offering affordable, fast, reliable and low latency broadband to remote areas across the globe as well as hard to serve locations like ships, planes and oil rigs. The network will also provide mobile operators with a more cost effective way of expanding cellular coverage.
Partners include Airbus, Bharti Enterprises, Hughes Network Systems, Intelsat, Qualcomm, Coca-Cola, the Virgin Group and Totalplay, all of whom have committed financial, technical or manufacturing support to the project.
These will be used to send 900 Airbus-manufactured micro-satellites into orbit to provide connectivity back down to Earth, with coverage boosted by interoperability with Intelsat’s existing satellite network, much of which also uses the ‘Ku-band’ standard.
“Together with our committed and visionary founding shareholders we have the key elements in place: regulatory, technology, launches, satellites, as well as commercial operators in over 50 countries and territories,” said Greg Wyler, CEO of OneWeb.
“We are committed to solving one of the world’s biggest problems – enabling affordable broadband Internet access for everyone. We are excited about the next phase, which will involve working with countries, telecom operators and aid organizations to help them realize their goals of open and ubiquitous access.”
“Our vision is to make the Internet affordable for everyone, connecting remote areas to rest of the world and helping to raise living standards and prosperity in some of the poorest regions today,” added Branson. “We believe that OneWeb, together with Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne satellite launch system, has the capability to make this a reality.”
OneWeb isn’t the only company with satellite Internet ambitions. British satellite firm Inmarsat plans to launch the “world’s first” globally available high speed mobile Internet service in the second half of 2015, while Elon Musk’s space venture SpaceX also filed an application to the FCC in June to launch Internet-beaming satellites.
However, one of the first companies to announce plans to use Internet satellites to connect the world seems to have pulled out of the race. Facebook was set to use satellites in its Internet.org initiative but reports claim Facebook’s plans have been shelved.
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