OneWeb Says Its Big Step Closer to Global Broadband Play

A communications satellite orbiting Earth
(Image credit: Getty Images)

OneWeb said Sunday (March 26) it had successfully launched 36 more low earth orbit (LEO) satellites, bringing its total to 618 satellites. The company said that paves the way for its launch of a global broadband service by year's end.

OneWeb logo

(Image credit: OneWeb)

The satellites were launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India, its second launch from that country. "OneWeb’s satellites separated successfully from the rocket and were dispensed in nine phases over a period of 1 hours and 14 minutes, with signal acquisition on all 36 satellites confirmed," the company said.

OneWeb said its constellation requires 588 satellites, plus some more for redundancy, which it now has in orbit.

Back in June 2017, the FCC unanimously approved OneWeb's request to deliver its service in the U.S. market (as part of a global operation), including particularly hard-to-reach and expensive-to-reach rural areas, after FCC chairman Ajit Pai proposed approving it.

The FCC subsequently approved similar plans by SpaceX, SpaceNorway, Kepler and Theia Holdings.

Closing the rural digital divide is one of the FCC's priorities, even more so in the age of social distancing, as well as providing more competition to wired broadband players who generally built their businesses on exclusive franchises.

OneWeb initial investors included Qualcomm, Virgin and Hughes. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2020 but was able to secure financing and emerge to continue its plans to blanket the globe with LEOs. ■ 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.