Plans to beam down ultra-fast Internet for rural communities via a “satellite constellation” from space could soon become a reality. That’s because OneWeb, a startup financially backed by Richard Branson, has received permission to provide US customers with next-generation satellite Internet service.
OneWeb was granted approval to launch a fleet of broadband Internet satellite services for US market access with a unanimous vote by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week.
The company’s vision is to set up a constellation of 720 satellites in low-Earth orbit (roughly 1,200 kilometers/745 miles high) to provide low-latency broadband to rural areas without a reliable high-speed Internet connection, including huge swathes of rural North America and Europe.As of 2015, 64 percent of rural households in the US have broadband Internet access, compared to74 percent in urban areas. That gap is thought to have widened further in the past two years.
Step one of their mission will begin by providing services to Alaska as early as 2019. Greg Wyler, founder and chairman of OneWeb,has previously statedthat their wider goal is to fully bridge the digital divide by 2027, making Internet access available and affordable for everyone. In the meantime, they also hope to provide every single school with reliable Internet access by 2022.
AirBus alsoannounced this week that they have already started assembling OneWebs satellite fleet.
The FCCs decision today, to grant market access to OneWeb, is an important step in helping to bring much needed low latency broadband access to Americans living in remote and hard to serve areas, OneWeb Founder and Executive Chairman Greg Wyler said in astatement.
OneWeb was founded with the mission to bridge the global digital divide and will begin services in Alaska as early as 2019. OneWebs affordable ubiquitous broadband infrastructure will enable our Solution Partner ISPs to create new opportunities for rural America in healthcare, education and business, leading to a more digitally inclusive society.
“The FCC vote, by the full commission, is important as it is the first of its kind for satellite systems like OneWeb and we are appreciative of their shared efforts and vision to make affordable internet access available for everyone.”
Numerous satellite Internet services are currently available, although they aretypically slow, costly to consumers, and only used as a last resort or for specialist purposes. Nevertheless, the prospect of providing accessible Internet is alluring to aerospace and tech giants, with SpaceX and Boeing having previously said they want to establish similar projects.
Although its still a few years off, it looks like OneWeb has taken the lead in the space race for affordablesatellite Internet service.