The British company OneWeb has entrusted the Airbus consortium with the construction of 800 satellites for its telecommunications system. The satellites deployed on the Earth’s orbit will create the largest ever constellation, or group of active satellites. The OneWeb constellation is supposed to provide the Internet in places where cable communication is not available. At OneWeb have invested in Richard Branson (head of the Virgin Group) and Qualcomm (one of the leading telecom giants).
Unlike satellite telephony, where the main mode of operation is low-pass communication with single devices (telephones), OneWeb will provide internet access to base stations. From there, the network will be distributed to users in the traditional way: by cable or terrestrial radio communication. A large number of satellites and an extensive routing network will provide OneWeb base stations with 50 Mbps bandwidth and a 30 millisecond delay.
The first 10 satellites will be designed and built in France and the rest in the USA. 648 of the 800 satellites will provide the service and the rest will be back up.
A large satellite constellation is not a new idea. At the beginning of the first decade of the 21st century, Teledesic and Skybridge tried independently to create their own broadband satellite broadband systems, but no one succeeded – the service did not attract customers, mainly because of the high cost of such a solution. Today the demand for the internet is bigger, and the construction and launch of cheaper satellites, and comes back to similar ideas. Elon Musk, owner of SpaceX, has expressed interest in building a network of small satellites that provide the Internet. The Muska constellation would have about 4,000 satellites. Currently, there are less than 2,500 active satellites and more than 10,000 inactive satellites or similar size rockets on different orbits. Planned constellations would increase this number considerably.