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AT&T goes to remote US via wholesale deal with OneWeb

Scott Mair AT&T.jpg

AT&T has signed a wholesale deal with OneWeb to use its satellites to deliver services to poorly covered parts of the US.

The company says that OneWeb’s satellites – 288 now, 648 by the middle of 2022 – will extend its reach beyond its fibre network or wireless towers.

Scott Mair (pictured), AT&T’s president of network engineering and operations, said: “Working with OneWeb, we’ll be able to enhance high-speed connectivity in places that we don’t serve today and meet our customers wherever they are.”

With the move, AT&T has won an advantage over its rival, Verizon. In his keynote speech at last week’s International Telecoms Week (ITW) in the US, Sunil Bharti Mittal, OneWeb executive chairman, listed Verizon among the companies OneWeb was talking to about rural coverage, but not AT&T.

The deal is not exclusive. OneWeb already has a distribution agreement, signed in June, with Pacific Dataport of Anchorage, Alaska.

At the same time OneWeb has announced a successful trial with US-based antenna company Kymeta. The companies used its u8 flat antenna, which is 89.5cm across, to confirm it could work with OneWeb’s low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites.

The u8 is already available for operating on vehicles with 4G mobile services on LTE band 14 – around 758-798MHz – but it also receives from satellites in the 10.7-12.75GHz range and transmits at 13.75-14.5GHz.

“The u8 is the first commercially-available flat panel antenna to interoperate with the OneWeb satellite constellation,” said OneWeb.

The company reported that the demonstrations – which were carried out in Toulouse – showed full-duplex communications between the Kymeta u8 and OneWeb’s satellites. The antenna achieved speeds of more than 200Mbps down and more than 40Mbps up “over repeated testing”.

And, in a so-far unexpected development, OneWeb’s Valery Gineste, senior director of technology, said the company plans to offer a mobile service “from the end of 2022”, and noted the suitability of the Kymeta u8 antenna.

Meanwhile AT&T said that its business and government customers in Alaska and northern US states will be covered by the satellite service later this year – though that exceeds what OneWeb is promising. The satellite company plans to offer services north from the fiftieth parallel to the North Pole by late 2021 – a region that includes Alaska, but not the contiguous 48 states that are all south of the 49th parallel.

In his ITW keynote, Mittal said OneWeb will have global coverage by June-July 2022.

Mair said: “We’re expanding our network with one more option to help ensure that our business customers have the high-speed, low-latency connectivity they need to thrive as the nation recovers from Covid-19.”

AT&T said its fibre network enables high-speed connections to over 2.5 million US business customer locations and a total of 9 million business customer locations are within 1,000 feet (300m) of AT&T fibre, but it wants to use OneWeb for the “remote areas that existing networks can’t reach with the high-speed, low-latency broadband essential to business operations”.