Virgin and Qualcomm are investing in a satellite Internet venture that aims to bring high speed broadband to remote and rural areas where it is not economically viable to extend fixed networks.
WorldVu satellite’s One Web plans to launch 648 telecom micro satellites, the first of their kind, transmitting broadband to small user terminals around the world.
These terminals will act as small cells, extending local mobile networks, using either licensed spectrum to transmit a 4G, 3G or 2G signal or unlicensed airwaves to create a local Wi-Fi or LTE network.
OneWeb plans to make the terminals easy to install and will work with local operators. It is also envisaged that the system could be used for an emergency network in disaster situations.
No financial details of the investment have been disclosed, but Virgin Galactic will also act as OneWeb’s first launch vehicle partner.
“We are excited by OneWeb’s bold vision to launch this major satellite constellation and be one of its key early investors,” said Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. “Imagine the possibilities for the three billion people in hard to reach areas who are currently not connected.
“We’re excited for the opportunity for Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne programme to help make it possible through low cost, reliable and frequent satellite launches. Improving access to education, health care, financial systems, and employment will take a revolution, one that we are tremendously proud to be part of.”
“We have a shared vision to bring connectivity to underserved areas around the world,” added Qualcomm Executive Chairman Paul Jacobs. “We are pleased to join Virgin as an initial investor, and we look forward to helping fund initial technical feasibility work for the satellite system.”
It’s not clear when the satellites will go live and OneWeb is seeking more investors for the project.
According to the UN-affiliated International Telecommunications Union (ITU), more than half of the world’s population still doesn’t have Internet access. It is predicted that the majority of people in the developing world will access the web through mobile phones rather than fixed line connections.
Facebook’s internet.org venture is one of a number that aim to provide Internet connections to everyone around the world.
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