In the race to see who will deliver satellite communications from low Earth orbit, OneWeb appears to be behind SpaceX, at least in the number of satellites launched to date.
However, looking forward, OneWeb looks to be ahead with respect to who will deliver services first, and importantly to markets beyond the US, including Canada.
To date SpaceX has launched 300 of their Starlink satellites including 180 this year. OneWeb has launched 40 satellites to date, of which 34 were launched earlier this month.
SpaceX is expected to launch at least another 600 satellites this year and OneWeb another 412.
SpaceX says it needs 800 satellites in orbit to begin delivering broadband internet services. If they stay on pace with their expected launch schedule they should achieve that threshold by the end of the year.
OneWeb is looking at needing about 650 satellites to provide global coverage and expects to do so in 2021.
Other competitors include Telesat and Amazon’s Kuiper constellation.
Telesat is behind both SpaceX and OneWeb. They haven’t picked a company to build their satellites. They are however expected to announce who will manufacture the constellation soon. That decision could be in March and quite possibly at the Satellite 2020 conference.
The one advantage Telesat has over other competitors for the Canadian market is the support of the federal government who have pledged $85 million from the Strategic Innovation Fund and a potential $600 million more over 10 years to purchase services should an agreement be completed between them.
For the Canadian market, OneWeb clearly has an advantage at this point. They have two things in their favour.
They will roll out their Arctic service first with availability expected late this year and OneWeb’s spectrum license has been approved by the Canadian department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED).
OneWeb’s license was obtained through their Canadian company 1021823 B.C. Ltd. which has received the following spectrum;
- 17.8-18.6 GHz (space-to-Earth)
- 18.8-19.3 GHz (space-to-Earth)
- 19.700-19.770 GHz (space-to-Earth)
- 27.5-29.1 GHz (Earth-to-space)
- 29.5-30 GHz (Earth-to-space)
OneWeb is already allowing resellers to take orders for a variety of user terminals.
Last September OneWeb announced the details of its forthcoming Arctic service saying in part they would “deliver 375 Gbps of capacity above the 60th parallel North.”
Telesat has also received approval of their spectrum, but it appears SpaceX hasn’t yet applied for a spectrum license in Canada. The one caveat for the SpaceX license application is that the online data provided by ISED on spectrum license applications hasn’t been updated since of May 29, 2019. SpaceQ contacted ISED to inquire if SpaceX or others had submitted new applications but has yet to receive a reply to our query.