OneWeb Satellite Constellation Gives
Everyone The Chance To Access The Internet

Most of us probably couldn’t imagine
a life without the internet. Not only is it a vast ocean of information, but
also essential for the ieconomic growth, education and health
care of a nation. However, ii53%
of the world is still unconnected, missing out on its great advantages and lagging
behind the rest of the world. A company known as OneWeb, working alongside
technological giants such as Virgin and Airbus are building a satellite constellation
that will allow internet access to every place on Earth.

1″To fully bridge the Digital
Divide by 2027, making Internet access available and affordable for everyone”,
is Greg Wyler’s, founder of OneWeb, goal by launching 900 satellites, providing
full coverage of the entire planet.

Normally, we go to an Internet
Service Provider (ISP), such as BT or Sky, who offer their services to connect
our home or company to the internet. These ISPs usually have several central
access points, known as a iiidata
centres, containing many server computer systems that store, process and
distribute data to customers. Currently, data reaches us by a network of cables
connecting data centres to local access points. These cables are normally fibre
optic, which uses light to carry the information at very high speeds, and are
laid underground. Our homes are usually connected to these points using ivthe
same copper cables that carry our phone lines. This is cheaper than laying more
fibre optic cables, but is not as fast at transferring data.

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However, building these large
infrastructures can be very difficult in rural areas due to the geographic
environment such as mountain ranges and rivers. Also, most of the connections
are made through cables running underground, meaning natural disasters, such as
earthquakes and hurricanes, can lead to mass communication failures.
Furthermore, building these networks require very technical knowledge and
planning; something countries in the developing world are struggling with. vA
“2012 survey of 12 countries” in Africa showed that only 5.4% of households had
working internet connection.

Looking up into the sky, the
solution to these problems can be found through satellite broadband. Satellites
are unaffected by natural disasters and can reach any point on the globe in its
field of view. When information is transmitted to and from a satellite, it is
first converted from a digital signal (binary numbers) into an analogue signal
(sinusoidal waveform). This is then placed onto a carrier signal before being
transmitted. You can think of the carrier as being a train transporting
passengers, the data signal, to its destination.

This technology does exist such
as viEutelsat’s,
a leading satellite operator, KA-SAT satellite with 82 beams transmitting broadband
to earth. It was launched into a geostationary orbit, meaning it is always in
the same place in the sky. Therefore, it can only provide internet for a fixed
area which Eutelsat managed to extend by launching vii33
more satellites, increasing the coverage to Europe and North Africa. However, if
one of these satellites were to go down, then a whole region will be left
without internet since the others are not in range. One of the biggest
challenges is the speed of data transfer. Since these satellites are viii35790km
above the earth’s surface, it takes a significant amount of time for the information
to move, causing consumers to experience slow internet.

ixFigure:
Configuration of 900 OneWeb satellites in 18 polar orbital plans at 1100 km
altitude to provide complete coverage of the planet.

OneWeb’s project takes a
different direction by having many more satellites creating a blanket around
the entire planet. Airbus, the company in charge of producing the satellites,
say that x”each satellite will weigh less than
150 kg” which is a substantial difference to the 2.2 tonne KA-SAT. Airbus has
to simplify designs to create smaller and less material consuming satellites to
allow mass production capabilities. Using lower grade materials also cuts down
on cost, meaning internet access can be more affordable to developing
countries.

They are also placed in xi polar
orbits, meaning they rotate between the two poles. This provides two benefits
over Eutelsat’s system: firstly, if one of the satellites fails there will
still be another satellite that will soon be in the position of the
malfunctioned one. This means that the customers in that region are not
permanently disconnected. Secondly, the satellites are in a lower orbit at only
1100km, 32.5 times lower than the KA-SAT, so the time taken for data to reach the
surface is much smaller, allowing faster internet speeds

The future of this project rests
on the test mission next year where 10ten satellites will be
launched into space. Internet speed and how the lightweight satellites cope
with space environment will be key factors to analyse. Possible changes to the
design may be required to extend longevity of the system, but Airbus will begin
mass producing satellites with estimates of xii15
per week and slowly connect the world together piece by piece.

With its full world coverage and
faster internet speeds than competing solutions, the OneWeb constellation seems
like the best approach to providing satellite broadband to areas where
conventional network infrastructures cannot reach. Schools, hospitals, and
banks are only a few examples that OneWeb’s project will have a profound effect
on the developing world. Hopefully, this will aid in creating a more united and
collaborative world.

i Greg
Wyler, We All Need Accessletter, Date of publication – 19/12/2016, cited
–  27/11/2017, Available from: http://www.oneweb.world/

ii UN
News Centre, Nearly 47 per cent of global population now online – UN report report,
Date of publication – 2016, cited – 
27/11/2017, Available from: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54931

iii
SAP Data Center, How a Data Center Works internet, Date of publication –
2016, cited –  27/11/2017, Available
from: http://www.sapdatacenter.com/article/data_center_functionality/#!

iv NTC
Hosting, Internet Service Provider (ISP) internet, Date of publication –
2015, cited –  27/11/2017, Available
from: https://www.ntchosting.com/encyclopedia/internet/isp/  

v
Deen-Swarray, Toward digital inclusion: Understanding the literacy effect on
adoption and use of mobile phones and the Internet in Africa. Information
Technologies & International Development Research Article, Date of
publication – Summer 2016. Available from:  http://dev.itidjournal.org/index.php/itid/article/view/1504/545

vi
H. Fenech, S Amos, A Tomatis, V Soumpholphakdy, High Throughput Satellite
Systems: An Analytical Approach journal, Date of publication – January 2015,
Available from: IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON AEROSPACE AND ELECTRONIC SYSTEMS VOL. 51,
NO. 1

vii
Eutelsat, EUTELSAT 115 WEST B, WORLD FIRST ALL-ELECTRIC SATELLITE, BEGINS
ASCENT TO GEOSTATIONARY ORBIT Press Release, 
Date of publication – 12/3/2015, cited – 
27/11/2017, Available from: http://news.eutelsat.com/pressreleases/eutelsat-115-west-b-world-first-all-electric-satellite-begins-ascent-to-geostationary-orbit-1129357

viii
Ian Poole, Geostationary Satellite Orbit, GEO internet, cited – 27/11/2017,
Available from: http://www.radio-electronics.com/info/satellite/satellite-orbits/geostationary-earth-orbit.php

ix
AIRBUS, Airbus Defence and Space Selected to Partner in Production of OneWeb
Satellite Constellation Figure, Date of publication – 15/6/2015, cited –
27/11/2017, Available from: https://airbusdefenceandspace.com/newsroom/news-and-features/airbus-defence-and-space-selected-to-partner-in-production-of-oneweb-satellite-constellation/?utm_source=rss=rss 

x Mumford,
Richard, Airbus Defence and Space and OneWeb Create OneWeb Satellites
journal, Date of publication – March 2016, Available from: Microwave Journal;
Mar 2016; Vol. 59 (3)

xi
AIRBUS, Airbus Defence and Space Selected to Partner in Production of OneWeb
Satellite Constellation Press Release, Date of publication – 15/6/2015, cited
– 27/11/2017, Available from: https://airbusdefenceandspace.com/newsroom/news-and-features/airbus-defence-and-space-selected-to-partner-in-production-of-oneweb-satellite-constellation/?utm_source=rss=rss 

xii Qualcomm
Inc, OneWeb inks deal to bring satellite internet to earth article, Date of
publication – 10/11/2017, cited – 27/11/2017, Available from: https://search.proquest.com/docview/1962562119?accountid=14511

x

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