WorldVu Satellites Limited, operating as OneWeb, Ltd, today announced plans to build, launch and operate a low-earth-orbit satellite constellation to help bring high-speed Internet and telephony to billions of people around the world. Qualcomm Incorporated and The Virgin Group have been announced as initial investors, with Qualcomm Executive Chairman Dr. Paul Jacobs and Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson to join OneWeb founder Greg Wyler on the company’s board of directors. Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed. OneWeb plans to bring in additional investors to fund construction, launch and operation of its system.
According to the International Telecommunications Union, as of the end of 2014, more than half the world’s population lacks Internet access. OneWeb, founded in 2012 under the name WorldVu, hopes to bring high-speed Internet and telephony to people living in underserved areas around the world. The OneWeb satellite system introduces the first ever fleet of telecom-class micro satellites. This projected fleet of 648 micro satellites is intended to provide low-latency, high-speed Internet access directly to small user terminals deployed around the world.
The OneWeb system will extend the networks of mobile operators globally, enabling them to provide coverage to rural and remote areas, which historically have not been economically feasible to connect using terrestrial networks. OneWeb plans to work with local operator partners to provide this access. OneWeb terminals act as small cells with the ability to provide access to the surrounding area via a WiFi, LTE, 3G or 2G connection using an operator partner’s licensed spectrum, or only LTE or WiFi on unlicensed spectrum.
OneWeb aims to provide users terminals that are self-installable, enabling coverage in these areas for any nearby phone, computer or tablet. OneWeb’s network would also be able to provide global emergency and first responder access for disaster situations, refugee camps or other areas in need.
OneWeb also announced the selection of its first satellite launch vehicle provider, Virgin Galactic and Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne vehicle.
“OneWeb is designing a global communications infrastructure that will enable affordable Internet access to the world’s underserved populations,” said OneWeb Founder and CEO Greg Wyler. “With the spectrum and technology, coupled with strong partners, we look forward to advancing global connectivity.”
“We are excited by OneWeb’s bold vision to launch this major satellite constellation and be one of its key early investors,” said Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. “Imagine the possibilities for the three billion people in hard to reach areas who are currently not connected. We’re excited for the opportunity for Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne programme to help make it possible through low cost, reliable and frequent satellite launches. Improving access to education, health care, financial systems, and employment will take a revolution, one that we are tremendously proud to be part of.”
“We have a shared vision to bring connectivity to underserved areas around the world,” said Qualcomm Executive Chairman Paul Jacobs. “We are pleased to join Virgin as an initial investor, and we look forward to helping fund initial technical feasibility work for the satellite system.”