OneWeb launches more internet satellites to take on SpaceX’s Starlink

OneWeb is edging toward the launch of an internet service similar to SpaceX’s Starlink, which uses satellites in low Earth orbit to beam broadband from space.

U.K.-based OneWeb confirmed at the weekend the successful deployment of 34 internet satellites, bringing its total constellation to 288 satellites. The communications company said the deployment puts it on track to begin a global internet service in 2022, delivered by a planned fleet of 648 satellites. Before then, by the end of this year, it hopes to launch a trial service in parts of Alaska and Canada.

OneWeb’s latest payload launched aboard an Arianespace Soyuz rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Saturday, August 21 at just after 6:10 p.m. ET. You can watch the liftoff in the video below.

In a release posted shortly after Saturday’s mission, OneWeb said it’s seeing growing interest from telecommunications providers, ISPs, and governments in its internet service that’s set to offer low-latency, high-speed connectivity services to remote locations on Earth.

OneWeb deployed its first batch of internet satellites in February 2019, leaving it almost a year before its second launch. Since then, it’s been ramping up deployments with close to one launch a month taking place since March. The next one is planned for September when it’ll deploy a further 34 satellites.

OneWeb’s efforts to provide an internet service from space sees it competing with SpaceX and its already up-and-running Starlink beta service, which currently has more than 1,700 internet satellites orbiting Earth following the first deployment in May 2019. SpaceX’s service currently serves 12 countries, with customers required to pay a one-time fee of $499 for the Starlink kit and then $99 per month for the broadband service.

Amazon also has plans to launch more than 3,200 internet satellites for its proposed Project Kuiper constellation.

OneWeb has had a rocky ride to get to where it is today. Eight years after it was founded, the company entered bankruptcy in March 2020 after failing to secure the necessary funds to complete its satellite constellation. However, eight months later a rescue package put together by the British government and Indian multinational company Bharti Global enabled OneWeb to continue its business and push toward its goal.

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