(The following comes from a discussion with OneWeb Executive Chairman Greg Wyler and some reporters at the company’s Washington D.C. launch party on February 6, 2020. Any errors can be ascribed to the author’s memory and possibly the champagne consumed at the event.)
U.S. rural broadband is “not really a market” for OneWeb. The market in the U.S. is “done,” Wyler said, because of government funding efforts to deploy broadband with last mile services coming through more affordable fiber and next-generation terrestrial wireless solutions.
Wyler has a unique perspective in terrestrial wireless compared to his satellite peers due to his involvement and investment in Tarana Wireless. Founded in 2009, Tarana uses software-defined radio (SDR) technology to provide lower-cost and more reliable gigabit-class fixed wireless services at large scale. Tarana has raised nearly $200 million in financing with participants including Khola Ventures, EchoStar, AT&T, and Deutsche Telekom with hardware currently undergoing field tests.
Wafer, Wyler’s self-funded effort to build a lower-cost flat-panel phased-array antenna, won’t be going after commercial mass-market sales at this time. The company is too busy doing smaller lot runs customized to different customer requirements.
Collisions between satellites and/or space debris is “inevitable,” Wyler said. The irony is the likelihood of collisions increases as more satellites are launched. “There needs to be an air traffic management system for space,” he said. And there’s no escape for OneWeb and others at higher orbits, since a collision or other incident will send debris upward just as easily as in all directions.