OneWeb, a London-based space startup, has announced its first official commercial service – a “fiber-like” internet to the Arctic region from 2020 with plans to be the first to provide 100% coverage to the region. OneWeb’s new internet service promises gigabits per second of data transmission capacity for areas lying above the 60th parallel north. That area takes in most of Alaska as well as Canada’s Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, plus parts of Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador. It also encompasses Greenland, Iceland and parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The company is already building out the ground infrastructure required to make its satellites operational on Earth and is building antennas in both Norway and Alaska.
The new satellite infrastructure will complement existing ground-based technologies, such as fiber cables, to extend coverage. But it will also ensure coverage during natural disasters while powering new technologies that require low-latency connectivity, like internet of things (IoT) devices and self-driving cars.
“Connectivity is now an essential utility and a basic human right,” said OneWeb CEO Adrian Steckel. “Our constellation will offer universal high-speed Arctic coverage sooner than any other proposed system meeting the need for widespread connectivity across the Arctic.”
OneWeb’s commercial service is primarily focused on business endeavors, including advancing scientific research and governmental initiatives in the region, as well as aviation and maritime interests. The melting Arctic ice is expected to open up the far Northern hemisphere to new shipping routes, potentially increasing maritime trade.
“Connectivity is critical in our modern economy,” added Lisa Murkowski, U.S. senator for Alaska. “As the Arctic opens, ensuring the people of the Arctic have access to affordable and reliable broadband will make development safer [and] more sustainable and create new opportunities for the next generation leading in this dynamic region of the globe.”