Via Twitter and email satellite broadband provider OneWeb has started posting test results. With six satellites in orbit, OneWeb has shown it can delivery streaming video at latencies of less than 40 milliseconds at speeds of over 400 Mbps. Founder and Chairman Greg Wyler believes there’s enough margin to get to gigabit speeds with refinements.
“Our tests prove that OneWeb will enable very high speed and low latency connectivity everywhere and we are on schedule to offer the service globally in 24 months. OneWeb is going to transform the way we think about connectivity and how we use it.” said Adrian Steckel, CEO of OneWeb.
Wyler first announced OneWeb test results via his personal Twitter account on July 11, citing speeds of over 350 Mbps and displaying a screen snapshot with ping times between 29 and 32 milliseconds. Later in the day, he said with “minimal optimization” OneWeb was hitting over 400 Mbps to a ground terminal and “I think 1 Gbps is achievable. These little satellites are performing very well.”
Later on July 11, OneWeb started promoting the results via Twitter with a fancy video and formal press release dropping on July 16. The connectivity tests took place in Seoul, South Korea in partnership with mobile satellite communications systems manufacturer Intellian and ground terminal equipment supplier SatixFy. All six production satellites used in the test were launched in February 2019 and are “performing well,” according to OneWeb’s press release.
The demonstration appeared to use a pair of Intellian mechanically-pointed dish antennas, a setup necessary to continually track multiple Low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites as they zip overhead. Intellian is an initial manufacturer and supplier of antenna and end-user ground equipment for OneWeb. SatixFy supplied a 125 MHz SCPC modem. Tests demonstrated seamless beam and satellite handover, accurate antenna pointing and tracking, and low latency plus high speed.
Simpler and lower-cost user ground equipment is in the works, with companies working to mass-produce electronically steerable flat panel antennas to push end-user equipment pricing below $350 in the 2021-2022 timeframe. Electronically steerable flat panels track two or more satellites at a time without having to use mechanical parts and multiple antennas to keep and establish a seamless data connection,
OneWeb plans to start launching satellites in earnest this fall, putting 30 or more satellites into orbit per launch and conducting launches on a monthly basis. Satellites will be built at a rate of two to three per day at a factory outside of NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “Partial service” is expected to start in 2020 with a fully functional global constellation of 650 satellites established in 2021, with the ability to scale upward to 1,980 satellites under current FCC licenses.
You can expect SpaceX to post Starlink broadband numbers in a couple of weeks, if not sooner. The two companies are in an undeclared race to establish their initial constellations and start signing up customers over the next 18 to 24 months. Amazon isn’t even close to launching satellites, despite all the media buzz.