Startup Asserts “Cell Towers in the Sky” Will Provide Global Broadband
UPDATE A satellite startup planning to subvert traditional towers with universal internet service is “horrifically expensive,” says the company’s founder. George Wyler created OneWeb to launch satellites intended on reaching remote areas with wireless broadband service. The FCC in June authorized OneWeb to build the system, Inside Towers reported. It’s currently the only developer to have one, though dozens of other companies have applied. The company plans to introduce its service in Alaska because of its isolation, GovTech.comreported.
Wyler explained the logic of his choice in an interview. “We’re looking to do Alaska as one of the early locations because it has a really challenging broadband problem, and if we can solve Alaska, it’s a great demonstration of what can be done everywhere else.” Alaska has few broadband customers, which are spread out intermittently across the state.
Due to the sparseness of the population, towers and fiber-optic cable are expensive to install. General Communications Inc. and Quintillion have promised to reach 100,000 more customers with broadband in the next ten years, but Wyler declares his company can accomplish this in just three, according to GovTech.com.
OneWeb is backed by Qualcomm, Airbus (the launch provider), SoftBank, and Virgin Galactic, which will provide capital and knowledge to launch 900 satellites by 2021. The initial cost of the project is expected to be close to $3 billion. Although Alaskan telecoms are cautious about offering the new service, they are also optimistic. Providing more broadband has been a need in the state for some time, and residents are hopeful connectivity issues could end soon.