OneWeb’s Broadband Satellite Network May Launch Next Year

June 27, 2017 - 2 minutes read

It’s easy for Boston iOS app developers to take a consistent high-speed internet connection for granted, but not everybody has it so lucky. As of last year, 39% of Americans in rural areas did not have access to 25 Mbps/3 Mbps service, with 20% of rural Americans unable to connect to 4 Mbps/1 Mbps service. Perhaps more worrying is the fact that 47% of our nation’s students have a slower connection than the FCC’s short-term goal of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students and staff. It’s high time to address this “digital divide” and give all Americans the up-to-date internet connection they deserve.

Fortunately, some of our nation’s top innovators and entrepreneurs are trying to launch the “space internet,” a satellite network that would beam high-speed broadband down to earth. iOS app developers may be familiar with Elon Musk’s plan to send 4,425 satellites into orbit in order to bring broadband coverage to the entirety of the globe (and to colonists on Mars, eventually). The FCC has been taking regular meetings with SpaceX, but they’ve yet to definitively give Musk’s plan the go-ahead. However, the FCC has greenlit OneWeb’s plan to launch 720 low-orbiting broadband satellites. The company, funded in part by Richard Branson, plans to send up its first ten satellites in 2018, with a full launch scheduled for the following year, so long as everything goes smoothly.

OneWeb’s admirable long-term goals include connecting all schools by 2022 and completely ending the connectivity gap by 2027. It’s an ambitious undertaking, but necessary in order to create a more egalitarian world. Even if OneWeb fails to meet its space internet goals, there are plenty of competitors filing with the FCC to send up their own broadband satellites. The FCC, which hasn’t exactly been hospitable to the tech industry these days, is still somewhat skeptical about these internet satellite fleets, citing concerns over space debris, in-line interference, and various regulatory tangles. But for iOS app developers who believe in a more connected world, the FCC’s approval of OneWeb’s plan is a sign of hope.

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