Internet from Outer Space, via OneWeb and Others
- Last week, OneWeb (a firm planning to have 648 micro-satellites placed into orbit by 2019 to provide broadband access) announced a $500 millon second round of funding from Airbus, Coca-Cola and Virgin Group. Prior investors include mobile network operator Bharti Enterprises, the satellite broadband provider Hughes Network Systems, satellite phone group Intelsat, chip maker Qualcomm and Grupo Salina, which is involved in media, telecom and banking.
- OneWeb founder Greg Wyler said, “The dream of fully bridging the digital divide is on track to be a reality in 2019 … we have the key elements in place: regulatory, technology, launches, satellites, as well as commercial operators in over 50 countries and territories. We are committed to solving one of the world’s biggest problems — enabling affordable broadband internet access for everyone.”
- Virgin Group chairperson Richard Branson said, “Our vision is to make the internet affordable for everyone, connecting remote areas to the rest of the world and helping to raise living standards and prosperity in some of the poorest regions today.”
- Coca-Cola chief sustainability officer Bea Perez said, "We believe [this project] will help spur local economic development where people are in the greatest need, while also helping our business by improving real-time access to some of the world's most remote areas where we are already active in helping provide opportunities for entrepreneurs."
- Bharti chairperson Sunil Bharti Mittal said, “Access to affordable high-speed Internet is a powerful tool for economic development and empowerment of populations, particularly, in emerging economies.”
- While prior satellite Internet efforts suffered from sluggish performance and high costs, the opportunity for OneWeb and others is to provide Internet access to over 2 billion people located in underserviced regions of the world to support education, medical and local commerce needs.
- Additional use cases include delivering services in nature disaster and refugee situations, as well as the needs of the commercial and military aviation industry.
- OneWeb’s efforts, as well as those of organizations such as Facebook, Google and SpaceX are unproven and must be competitive with land-based Internet services.
- Commercial space efforts need to address the challenges of “space junk” - the thousands of pieces of old satellites and spacecraft in earth’s orbit.