OneWeb ready to take on Starlink in internet-from-space race

OneWeb is poised to take on SpaceX’s Starlink with its own internet-from-space service.

U.K.-based OneWeb successfully deployed another 36 satellites at the weekend and a short while later confirmed they were operating as expected.

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Sunday’s mission marked OneWeb’s 18th launch and its third this year and expanded its constellation to 618 satellites.

The deployment was significant as it gave OneWeb enough satellites to offer global broadband coverage,

Global services won’t begin until later this year, however, as OneWeb needs to finish building out the ground stations that form a critical part of the system.

At the current time, OneWeb, which deployed its first satellites in 2019, offers only a very limited service in regions north of 50 degrees latitude.

Once activated, OneWeb’s coverage will bring connectivity to towns, villages, schools, and businesses in remote areas and beyond.

Commenting on Sunday’s milestone mission, Sunil Bharti Mittal, executive chairman of OneWeb, said: “In my work, I have seen the power of connectivity to bring benefits to all, wherever they are. Yet half the world’s population does not have access to fast, reliable connectivity. Today’s launch represents a major step toward closing the digital divide. OneWeb’s global constellation will play a pivotal role in realizing this dream.”

But OneWeb faces stiff competition from SpaceX’s Starlink, which is already serving more than a million customers around the world using a constellation of more than 3,000 satellites. And Project Kuiper, backed by tech powerhouse Amazon, is set to deploy its first two prototype satellites in May with a view to launching a broadband service in 2024.

But not everyone is happy about the mass satellite deployments. Astronomers, for example, are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact on their work as sunlight reflecting off the satellites’ shiny surfaces can interfere with their observations of deep space.

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