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OneWeb plans early 2020 Australian entry to capitalise on 5G rollouts

Global mega-constellation OneWeb has for the first time provided some detail on its proposed Australian service, which it expects to start offering in early 2020 to coincide with the rollout of 5G networks here.

The company, which has received financial backing of more than US$1.5 billion to date, has also called on the Australian Communications and Media Authority to reduce its licence fees for Ka-band spectrum. As exclusively revealed in Space & Satellite AU, the company obtained the initial approvals from the Australian Communications and Media Authority in November that will allow it to operate in Australia. Now it has also made its first foray into Australia's regulatory debate with a submission to the ACMA's five-year spectrum outlook.

The submission, signed off by OneWeb VP of regulatory and government affairs Tony Azzarelli, said that the company looks forward to working with the ACMA more closely as it “establishes itself as a player of significance in the Australian market”.

“OneWeb plans to make available its services within Australia from the beginning of 2020 and in doing so will bring low earth orbit services, comprising low latency, high availability and high capacity for LTE based services and also at an appropriate time when 5G/IoT applications are expected to be introduced in Australia, thus allowing a complementary and integrated satellite solutions to terrestrial developments,” Azzarelli wrote in the submission.

“Satellite as an integral part of 5G can provide resilient and ubiquitous coverage to support quick growth across the whole of Australia. This is important for a country such as Australia with its vast challenge of distance, variety of landscapes and coverage of a sparse population density in many instances. In planning and preparation for market entry, OneWeb needs to give consideration to both end-user economic viability and practicality, as well as the establishment of gateways to provide feeder links into the constellation, which will comprise of 800+ satellites in the initial deployment,” he added.

OneWeb's initial investors include Airbus, Japan's Softbank, Qualcomm and Richard Branson's Virgin Group. It was founded by Greg Wyler, whose earlier ventures included starting the O3b network of medium-earth orbit satellites now owned by SES, while its board includes Branson, Qualcomm chairman Paul Jacobs, Airbus CEO Thomas Enders and Bharti Enterprises founder and chairman Sunil Bharti.

It is one of a group of companies that have proposed large constellations of low-earth orbit satellites to provide ubiquitous global coverage, but also the most advanced in terms of deployment. In June this year it received unanimous backing from the Federal Communications Commission to enter the US market, where it plans to start offering services in 2019.

KU-BAND FEE REDUCTION: In its submission, OneWeb noted the recent price reductions that the ACMA had announced for Ka-band spectrum. The company's plans would use Ka-band for gateways and Ku-band for FSS spectrum access.

“It would therefore seem reasonable for the same quantum of price reductions to apply to Ku-band, especially given that there is less spectrum denial of other (than FSS) services in that band,” the submission stated.

“If similar fee reductions occurred in Ku-band as those obtained in Ka-band last year, then the economic viability of satellite service provision for the rural and remote communities across Australia would be competitive and on a par with other countries,” it claimed.

“Whilst Ku-band spectrum/license fees is not included in the current proposed FYSO, OneWeb is proposing for the ACMA to consider price reduction of the Kuband spectrum access since it would otherwise make its offering extremely uncompetitive and speculates that if this is introduced into the current proposed Work Program

. . . it would be a very popular and well accepted addition within the satellite industry, and one which is timely and consistent with previous ACMA decisions. This would also increase the investment attractiveness of Australia to existing and potential market entrants,” the company stated.

The ACMA is planning to release its 12-month spectrum work program for comment in the first half of 2018, and publish it prior to or at the start of financial year 2018/19. Geoff Long, Commsday