OneWeb satellite internet: review, pros, cons, availability

29th Aug 2023
OneWeb satellite internet: review, pros, cons, availability

Satellite Internet – it sounds very expensive and available only to a narrow circle of users. But if we’re talking about…?! No! Not the Americans. OneWeb Internet! Let’s look at the cost, coverage, availability, speed and other features of the first British worldwide satellite Internet provider. ОneWeb satellite internet is just around the corner.

Satellite internet first appeared in 1996. It never really gained mass distribution for a long time because of high costs and the limits of telecommunications. Nowadays, we can consider both of these flaws corrected primarily due to the competition between OneWeb vs Starlink. We have to hand it to Elon Musk. As a fine manager, his Internet is already working in some countries, though not without problems. OneWeb is in no hurry to launch its Internet services but promises that it will happen this year, in 2023. So, let’s find out all about OneWeb satellite Internet to see if Britain can be proud of that name.

Is OneWeb the same as Starlink?

orbits and satellite constellations
OneWeb intends to cover the Earth with a nominal constellation of 648 LEO minisatellites. Image credit: Airbus DS

OneWeb and Starlink are two absolutely independent Internet companies, but they are pursuing the same goal — providing high-speed Internet using a constellation of telecommunications satellites.

This means that users worldwide get the speed and connectivity of fibre optic Internet, which is particularly relevant in hard-to-reach regions where laying thousands of miles of fibre optic Internet cable is impossible or economically unviable.

And although satellite Internet technology is not new, the British company compares favourably with long-established Internet providers in regard to the service’s relative availability and wide coverage. Let’s look at the features of OneWeb satellite Internet.

Does the UK own OneWeb?

Flags of countries whose companies invest in OneWeb.
Flags of countries whose companies invest in OneWeb. Image Credit: OneWeb

Formally, OneWeb has a British residence, but the Internet company’s roots come from the United States. The company was originally registered in Virginia in 2012 by American entrepreneur Gregory Wyler and was called WorldVu Satellites. In January 2015, the new Internet enterprise was re-registered in the Channel Islands, in St. Helier, Jersey (the possession of the British Crown) and changed its name to OneWeb LLC.

The Internet company is actively supported by the British government, but it is not the only funding source for OneWeb satellite Internet services. The list of investors also includes:

  • Bharti Global (Indian telecommunications giant)
  • SoftBank Group (Japanese investment company)
  • Eutelsat (multinational satellite operator)
  • Hanwha Group (South Korean conglomerate)
  • Hughes Network Systems, a worldwide provider of satellite communication and Internet services.

So, legally, OneWeb is a British non-public joint stock limited company, but in fact, it can be considered an international company, since its offices are located in London, UK, and McLean, Fairfax, Virginia, USA, while the production lines are in Florida, USA and Toulouse, France.

Is OneWeb active?

OneWeb satellite
OneWeb satellite. image credit: OneWeb

Not yet. Although the British project is six years older than Starlink, the company does not appear to be as nimble as its American competitor. Last year, Elon Musk’s company started providing Internet services in selected countries. We previously wrote about the availability of satellite Internet to UK residents in our article Is Starlink available in the UK. ОneWeb satellite internet will be switched on only this year. Here’s why:

  • In 2020, the company suffered a bankruptcy due to the coronavirus pandemic but managed to revive. The situation was resolved thanks to an investment of over $1 billion by the UK government and Bharti Global.
  • OneWeb uses third-party orbital launch operators to launch Internet satellites. Until 2022, Starsem, a joint venture between Arianespace and Roscosmos, was the primary carrier for the company’s satellite launches. But after Russia’s treacherous attack on Ukraine, the British aspiring Internet provider abandoned the use of Russian Soyuz rockets due to ethical reasons, thus, losing over £200m in prepayments for future launches. As a result, the company hired new operators SpaceX and NewSpace India Limited, but these upheavals caused a delay in the launch schedule.
  • OneWeb focuses on the quality and stability of satellite broadband, so it will only start providing services after the entire constellation of 648 satellites is in orbit, which just happened.

Who are OneWeb’s target clients?

The company focuses on corporate clients working in the Internet of Things and on government organizations. OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson claims that there is no competition with Starlink, as the enterprises target different consumer segments.

What is the key technology behind OneWeb internet?

OneWeb system architecture
OneWeb system architecture. Image credit: OneWeb

The British operator is focused on providing stable high-speed Internet services worldwide. To do this, the user will need a ground communication terminal with an antenna and network access data. Communication with the terminals will be provided by satellites in LEO located at 1200 km altitude.

According to Neil Masterson, each OneWeb satellite will be able to seamlessly connect to user terminals and the terrestrial network, transmitting data in real time. OneWeb’s speed is predicted to be up to 200 Mbps, with a delay of 50-70 ms. Each Internet satellite is capable of providing a throughput of 7.2 Gbps. The compact and low power consumption LEO antennas can see multiple moving satellites at any time and connect with maximum accuracy even in the most inaccessible places.

The British provider also puts a lot of emphasis on the compliance of the core satellite services with 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards, which automatically makes them compliant with mobile operators’ backhaul requirements. In the future, ОneWeb satellite internet will be fully integrated into the network infrastructure and enable users to move seamlessly between mobile and satellite networks, depending on the situation.

Who builds OneWeb satellites?

OneWeb Satellites factory near the Kennedy Space Center
Photo of the OneWeb Satellites factory near the Kennedy Space Center. image credit: OneWeb

Internet satellites are manufactured by OneWeb Satellites, a joint venture between OneWeb and Airbus Defense and Space. OneWeb Satellites was created in 2015 specifically for the production of the OneWeb satellite constellation. The goal of the joint venture was to use innovative manufacturing technologies to produce satellites faster and cheaper compared to traditional methods.

OneWeb Satellites has a high-tech, high-volume satellite manufacturing facility located in Exploration Park, Florida, USA, as well as an innovation centre in Toulouse, France.

Today the company is building not only the ОneWeb satellite internet constellation. Through parent company Airbus, it offers the market a standardized payload platform and interface, compatible with many different payloads. OneWeb Satellites claims to be able to make satellites for less than 10% of the traditional satellites’ cost and with a throughput of up to two satellites per day.

What is the OneWeb satellite failure rate?

The company’s satellite failure rate is 0.79%. Over 19 launches, OneWeb lost only two Internet satellites out of 634. In both cases, the cause was a software failure, as a result of which the satellites were deorbited. Three more satellites have not manoeuvred for a long time and are slowly descending under the influence of residual atmospheric drag. The remaining satellites are in working, reserve, or parking orbits. For comparison, Starlink’s losses are significantly higher. Of the 4,789 satellites put into orbit to date, 333 have been lost, which amounts to 7%.

How much will OneWeb internet cost?

At the moment, OneWeb Internet plans have not been officially announced. Some sources say that they will be more flexible than Starlink, but more expensive (up to $ 2,000 per connection). However, it should be noted that the company is focused on corporate clients, which means that OneWeb Internet cost per end user will be cheaper. As a reminder, Elon Musk’s services today cost $500 for a set of equipment for the initial Internet connection, and $99 for a monthly subscription fee.

When can I finally use OneWeb?

ОneWeb satellite internet is expected to enter the market by the end of 2023. As mentioned above, the company will start providing services only after the entire constellation of 648 satellites is placed on LEO. On 25th March, SpaceX launched OneWeb’s final batch of 16 first generation satellites into orbit, and now there are 634 OneWeb satellites in orbit, but not all are in their final orbit. One more flight is set aside for reserve satellites.

So, when will OneWeb offer internet service? Probably in the coming months. In June, the  Internet operator announced a significant expansion of its service range. The provider’s Internet coverage now extends to all of Canada and 37 European countries, including Austria, Italy, France, and Portugal.

This is what OneWeb coverage map looks like at the moment. But please note that these data are not taken from the official website of the company, so they may not reflect the real picture.

OneWeb coverage


Where Will OneWeb be available in the US?

OneWeb is ready to provide Internet services throughout the US and the Caribbean region. On 5th July this year, the company signed a Partnership Agreement with Connecta Satellite Solutions, a leading distributor of satellite communications solutions for large enterprises and governments in North America. OneWeb is expected to complement, enhance and expand existing Connecta services and create low-latency connectivity solutions for corporate and government customers in these regions.

So, by the end of 2023, OneWeb promises to make its Internet services and network available even in the most remote corners of the planet. Are you ready to celebrate Christmas with OneWeb Internet?

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