Satellite service provider Intelsat has entered into a commercial alliance with big business- and billionaire-backed low earth orbit (LEO) Ku-band satellite constellation provider OneWeb.

Intelsat will partner with OneWeb in order to use its LEO satellite constellation to complement its own geostationary orbit (GEO) satellite technology, resulting in the first equatorial and pole-to-pole, fully global, high throughput satellite system – once the OneWeb technology has been launched. Current predictions have OneWeb launching in 2019.

“Intelsat believes that the opportunity for space-based communications is at a new inflection point, especially as broadband connectivity has become an essential input to economic growth for individuals, businesses and communities,” said Intelsat CEO, Stephen Spengler. “In this context, we are accessing new technologies and leveraging sector innovations to the benefit of our customers and our network."

Although not yet operational, the OneWeb model has caused quite a stir in the international community. Be it the maritime industry or humanitarian projects, OneWeb aims to provide Internet access to the world indiscriminately. Currently around half of the world is beyond the realms of connectivity; OneWeb wants to provide LTE, 3G and WiFi to any area with a connected user terminal.

“Through this partnership with OneWeb, we will further differentiate our own GEO infrastructure, including our next generation Intelsat Epic high performance satellites that will begin to launch in the first quarter of 2016,” Spengler continued. “By complementing our GEO services with LEO services, we will be able to provide connectivity over the Earth’s poles and in urban canyons, coverage that is important for certain mobility applications... In collaborating on Ku-band access hardware, we will develop technologies with additional scale that will simplify access, reduce costs and open new addressable markets.”


The combination of LEO and GEO satellites.

Within the commercial alliance Intelsat has also invested $25 million for a minority share in OneWeb, committed to a research and development programme and been granted exclusivity to distribute OneWeb’s services to the aeronautical and maritime sectors as well as for certain U.S government, oil and gas applications.

“While the primary goal is to bridge the digital divide for rural areas, we recognise the potential for a seamless Ku-band infrastructure to support other applications as well. The OneWeb and Intelsat alliance allows each company to leverage the strength of the other", exaplined Greg Wyler, CEO and founder of OneWeb. "We believe that access to Intelsat’s global service and technology footprint, and collaboration on solutions which combine the benefits of LEO and GEO will advance our mission.”

For the superyacht industry this means high-speed Internet access anytime, anywhere in the world.

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