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Australasia Satellite Forum 2019 

OneWeb strikes commercial deal with Telstra to host its earth stations in Australia

OneWeb has signed a commercial deal with Telstra to host two gateway earth stations in Australia, one in the west and one in the north of the country, with a third earth station currently under discussion for the eastern seaboard.

The company, which has financial backing from the likes of Airbus, Softbank, Qualcomm and Virgin Group, is planning a constellation of around 600 satellites in low-earth orbit. It expects to be able to deliver low latency, high bandwidth services across the globe, including full coverage of Australia and surrounding areas.

OneWeb recently briefed the Australian Communications and Media Authority on its updated plans and noted that it will have significant infrastructure investments in Australia.

As well as the deal with Telstra, OneWeb plans to have a point of presence in Sydney in order to optimise traffic. The PoP will connect the OneWeb network to the Internet and will involve network caches and the opportunity to peer with content providers directly at the gateway earth stations.

GLOBAL COMPETITORS: OneWeb is one of a number proposed global LEO constellations and will compete against similar systems from the likes of Amazon, SpaceX and Canada's Telesat. However, OneWeb is arguably the most advanced, having launched its first six satellites in February. It was also early in getting regulatory approvals in Australia – as previously reported in Space & Satellite AU, the company received approvals back in 2017 that will allow it to operate in Australia.

In its briefing to ACMA this month, it said that after a short period of testing its first six satellites, it will commence pilot tests in mid-2019. Further satellite launches will extend OneWeb’s coverage across the globe, with a full commercial service throughout the world by 2022.

Following the launch, OneWeb also secured further funding from investors and partners that brings its funding to date to over US$3 billion. The Airbus-OneWeb joint venture facility in Florida has been set up to produce over 30 satellites per month, while in the third quarter of this year a facility in Toulouse, France will also be in full production.

PROPOSED APPLICATIONS: OneWeb has previously noted that its service will be complementary to 5G mobile, with its arrival also timing nicely with the rampup of 5G network rollouts. The company expects its service to be supported by innovative low-cost user terminals that can provide 3G, 4G LTE, 5G and Wi-Fi connectivity, providing high-speed access to surrounding areas of a satellite terminal independent of 5G terrestrial mobile cellular coverage.

In its submission to the ACMA, it said another proposed application was to provide services to the aviation sector via Earth Stations In Motion (ESIM), which the regulator is now consulting on. ESIM is attracting global interest and uses mobile terminals to allow planes, ships and land vehicles to connect to internet services via satellite. The current ACMA consultation is significant because it potentially opens up the market to non-geostationary orbit systems such as OneWeb.

“One particular interesting application of the OneWeb system will be to provide high-capacity, low-latency connections to mobile platforms (ESIM) when these are outside the reach of the terrestrial infrastructure,” the company said.

It noted that the possibility of including ESIM in the OneWeb service offering will address a key market that is in “dire need” of additional capacity and a low-latency solution. – Geoff Long, Commsday