Plans to build, launch and operate a constellation of low-orbit satellites that will help provide Internet and telephony services to billions of people around the world were announced by WorldVu Satellites Limited (OneWeb) in collaboration with Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group.
In particular, according to a relevant announcement, Qualcomm Incorporated and The Virgin Group are the initial investors. No details were released about the deal, with OneWeb planning to bring in additional investors.
According to the International Telecommunications Union, at the end of 2014, more than half of the world's population had no access to Internet. OneWeb was founded in 2012 under the name WorldVu and "hopes to bring high speed internet and telephony to people living in deprived areas.
According to a relevant announcement, the OneWeb satellite system presents "the first micro-satellites in the telecommunication category. This planned fleet of 648 microsatellites aims to provide low-latency, high-speed Internet access directly to small user terminals around the world.
OneWeb's system will expand the networks of mobile providers worldwide, allowing them to provide coverage in rural and remote areas, which were traditionally difficult to connect to conventional networks. The company plans to work with local companies to provide such access, with terminals operating as small "cells" with the ability to cover the surrounding area with WiFi, LTE, 3G or 2G connections.
The goal is to provide users with easy-to-install terminals, including emergency use in disaster-stricken areas, refugee camps, and more.
At the same time, OneWeb announced the choice of the first launch vehicle, which will be none other than Virgin Galactic LauncherOne.
In his own announcement, Sir Richard Branson says "we have the largest order in history to launch satellites in Space. When the second 'constellation' has developed, the company will have launched more satellites than those in the sky now. "