According to the International Telecommunications Union, more than half of the world’s population still lacked Internet access as 2014 drew to a close. The OneWeb satellite system, formerly known as WorldVu, aims to bring high-speed Internet and telephony to that half via a fleet of 648 micro satellites. The telecom-class micro satellites will provide low-latency, high-speed Internet access directly to small user terminals deployed around the world.
The OneWeb terminals, which act as small cells, provide the given surrounding area with access to Wi-Fi, LTE, 3G, or 2G connections using an operator partner’s licensed spectrum (or LTE/Wi-Fi on unlicensed spectrum.) The satellites will operate in the Ku band, with approximately 20 satellites operating in each of the 20 different orbital planes for consistent coverage. Each satellite’s phased-array antenna utilizing progressive pitch helps avoid interference with other Ku-band satellites.
Aside from typical phone, computer, and tablet connectivity, the low-earth-orbit constellation could also provide global emergency and first-responder access for disaster situations.
Qualcomm and the Virgin Group have been announced as initial investors. Additional investors will be brought on to fund the construction, launch, and operation of the system. OneWeb also announced that Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne has been selected as the first satellite launch vehicle. Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson says by the time the second constellation is developed, more satellites will have been launched than what’s currently orbiting the sky.