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Successful launch for OneWeb, but continuing mystery about service start

OneWeb satellite in orbit.jpg

Satellite company OneWeb finished 2021 on a high, with another successful launch, but the date of its commercial start is still unclear.

French company Arianespace carried out OneWeb’s twelfth launch on 27 December, with 36 satellites on board, making eight launches in the year – all successful.

The company plans more launches in 2022, to achieve its goal of 648 low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites in operation, with one in February from French Guiana, one in March from Baikonur in Kazakhstan, and then five more from Baikonur.

However OneWeb has still not confirmed when it will be able to offer wholesale services to its partners, including AT&T and BT.

A year ago, Sunil Bharti Mittal, executive chairman of OneWeb, told Capacity that the company would be able to offer commercial services via wholesale partners by the end of October 2021 to areas north of 50° N latitude – an area covering the whole of the UK, plus Alaska, northern Canada, Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe.

Sources suggested to Capacity in December that the company is running five to six months behind this schedule, with start of services likely in March or April 2022. A source told Capacity after the December launch that “we are not six months delayed”.

But Capacity’s story in December said that BT did not have a date. “It’s a bit too early to say when we will launch services for UK customers, and we’re looking to do some lab and customer trials early next year [2022].”

Since then, AT&T has also been non-committal. “We expect some initial services to deploy in 2022 and we will expand them based on OneWeb’s deployment schedule and capabilities,” an executive told Capacity.

 

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