OneWeb Promises Faster Satcom
A newcomer to NBAA-BACE is inviting platform OEMs, service providers and end-users to meet them this week as they aim to promote a new kind of inflight connectivity for the business aviation world.
OneWeb was founded in 2012 and launched its first six satellites in February this year. The company, which was established to connect remote areas of the globe, is entering a crowded marketplace, but has taken a different approach to incumbent satcom providers and newer competitors alike. It has partnered with Airbus and built a factory in Florida to rapidly manufacture large numbers of spacecraft, which it is placing in lower orbits than has hitherto been the norm.
“The biggest virtue of OneWeb is higher speed and far lower latency,” says Dylan Browne, OneWeb’s head of business aviation, government and maritime sectors. “Latency is the time lag between you hitting search and you getting the response back from Google or whatever the application might be. Our latency round trip will be under 100 milliseconds. Whereas [in] the world that we’ve grown up in, in business aviation with geostationary satellite constellations, your latencies are above 600 milliseconds.”
This performance can be achieved because OneWeb’s constellation will be at a much lower altitude than traditional geostationary communications satellites. OneWeb’s spacecraft are in low earth orbits (LEO), which put the satellites at no more than 1,240 mi. above the surface, whereas geostationary satellites are above 22,000 mi. It is this attribute of OneWeb’s system that, Browne argues, lends itself to the business aviation market.
“Effectively, we’re six times or more [better] on latency, and that makes a difference,” he continues. “The reason it makes a difference is not because of existing applications and needs and wants; it’s what’s coming in the future in terms of corporations moving their IT stack to the cloud, Office365, and numerous other applications. And on the social side, with streaming applications, the lower latency gives you a higher performance. Our low latency really enables end-users, principals, heads of state in these aircraft to get a great user experience.”
Taking advantage will not come cheap, but OneWeb intends its offering to be competitive. The system will require a bespoke antenna with an integrated modem, so there will be a cost associated with retrofitting the system to an in-service jet. Browne argues that such installations can help retain an aircraft’s aftermarket value because the system will work globally.