National Harbor, MD – LEO satellite operator OneWeb will provide broadband services to AT&T. OneWeb Executive Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal made the announcement as a part of his morning keynote speech at Satellite 2021, making AT&T the largest U.S. carrier to announce a partnership with a LEO broadband service.
“I’m very glad to announce that we have signed up a partnership in the US, the most iconic name that we have all grown up with, AT&T,” Mittal said. “I am very pleased to share with you today that the US market now has a huge distributor in the form of AT&T.”
In its press release shortly after Mittal’s announcement, AT&T announced it signed a “strategic agreement” with OneWeb to “harness the capabilities of satellite technologies to prove access for AT&T business customers into remote and challenging geographic locations.”
The new service option will complement existing AT&T access technologies, delivering high-speed, low latency broadband for connecting enterprise, small and medium-sized business and government customers “as well as hard-to-reach cell towers.” AT&T business and government customers in Alaska and northern U.S. states will be covered later this year with the existing 288 satellites, with global coverage available by the end of 2022 when the full fleet of 648 satellites are in orbit.
“Working with OneWeb, we’ll be able to enhance high-speed connectivity in places that we don’t serve today and meet our customers wherever they are,” said Scott Mair, President, Network Engineering and Operations, AT&T. “We’re expanding our network with one more option to help ensure that our business customers have the high-speed, low-latency connectivity they need to thrive as the nation recovers from COVID-19.”
Today’s statements didn’t discuss what roles OneWeb could play in AT&T’s FirstNet broadband network for first responders and public safety agencies, but the high-speed, low-latency service is an obvious choice to augment or be a primary part of providing backhaul service when terrestrial capacity is unavailable due to geography or knocked off line.
AT&T joins several other carriers that have partnered with OneWeb, including BT, Alaska Communications, NorthweTel, and Pacific Dataport. Since Bharti Group has a significant investment in OneWeb, it is logical to assume that Bharti Airtel will also be a customer and/or distributor for OneWeb services across Asia and Africa.
In comparison, SpaceX has said it has partnerships with two telecom carriers so far but has left the announcement of those relationships to those firms. Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) carrier O3b has a number of smaller telecom customers in Asia and the Americas.