FCC Grants Approval To OneWeb To Launch Over 700 Internet Beaming Satellites

The space above Earth is about to get a little more crowded. The FCC has recently granted approval to OneWeb to launch over 720 Internet-beaming satellites into orbit. OneWeb is “the first satellite constellation of its kind to receive approval from the full commission.” The low-Earth orbit satellites will employ on-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) technology. OneWeb as a company is backed by some industry heavy-hitters as well, with Dr. Paul Jacobs, Executive Chairman of Qualcomm and Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group, among others residing on its Board of Directors. 

oneweb satellite with thruster
Image from: OneWeb

OneWeb was granted 7 GHz of spectrum in 1997 by the United Nations International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Over the last twenty years they have developed their patent-pending Progressive Pitch technology to use this spectrum in the most efficient way possible. The technology allows them to slightly tilt their satellites as they approach the equator in order to avoid causing or receiving interference.

OneWeb’s satellites will be quickly produced “in the same way high quality medical and avionics equipment are”. The satellites will have an on-board propulsion system that will help them stay away from debris and they will automatically de-orbit and return to Earth once they have reached the end of their life. Customers will be able to install “Terminals” in their homes to take advantage of the high-speed connections broadcast from satellites. The terminals will be able to operate with solar panels, battery packs, and WiFi/LTE/3G and 2G radios and provide coverage to cell phones, tablets, laptops and other IoT devices.

oneweb satellite plan drawing

Image from: OneWeb

OneWeb’s plan will not be without its challenges. FCC commissioner Michael O’Rielly remarked that the “scope of these systems has raised many issues, such as preventing in-line interference and orbital debris, which will need to be considered further.” He also noted that there are “multiple conditions for OneWeb’s approval. For example, access to some frequencies could be restricted by future Multichannel Video Distribution and Data Service (MVDDS) proceedings and our action today is conditioned on the outcome of the larger NGSO rulemaking.”

These satellites are part of OneWeb’s mission to bring broadband Internet access to everyone around the globe by 2027. OneWeb will initially launch ten test satellites by 2018, and the remaining 710 satellites by 2019, if all goes to plan.