WORLD getting closer through LEO satellites
- OneWeb has launched its next batch of 36 satellites from Russia.
- With this latest launch, OneWeb’s total in-orbit constellation stands at 218 satellites.
- Using LEO satellites OneWeb seeks to offer connectivity across the UK, Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland, the Arctic Seas and Canada.
- These would be a part of OneWeb’s 648 LEO satellite fleet.
- The company only has one more launch to complete before it obtains the capacity to enable its ‘Five to 50’ service of offering internet connectivity to all regions north of 50 degrees latitude.
Benefits of LEO satellites based internet:
- LEO satellites are positioned around 500km-2000km from earth, compared to stationary orbit satellites which are approximately 36,000km away.
- As LEO satellites orbit closer to the earth, they are able to provide stronger signals and faster speeds than traditional fixed-satellite systems.
- Because signals travel faster through space than through fiber-optic cables, they also have the potential to rival if not exceed existing ground-based networks.
- LEO satellites travel at a speed of 27,000 kph and complete a full circuit of the planet in 90-120 minutes.
- As a result, individual satellites can only make direct contact with a land transmitter for a short period of time thus requiring massive LEO satellite fleets and consequently, a significant capital investment.
- Regulating the framework is complicated.
- Mainly, Private companies are running the projects, so the balance of power is shifting from countries to companies.
- Satellites traveling at a lower orbit can also interrupt the frequency of those orbiting above them.
- They have the potential to damage spacecraft or collide with other satellites and can further contribute to space junk.
- Satellites can sometimes be seen in the night skies which creates difficulties for astronomers as the satellites reflect sunlight to earth, leaving streaks across images.
LEO satellite broadband is preferable in areas that cannot be reached by fiber and spectrum services. The target market will therefore be rural populations and military units operating away from urban areas.
OneWeb’s chief competitor is Starlink, a venture led by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Starlink currently has 1,385 satellites in orbit and has already started beta testing in North America and initiating pre-orders in countries like India.