Hughes Network Systems signed a contract for $190 million with OneWeb for the production of a ground network system that will support OneWeb’s constellation of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites.
The contract builds on an original system development agreement the companies signed in June 2015, bringing the total value of both agreements to more than $300 million. The contract includes production of gateway sites, each with multiple tracking satellite access points to support handoff of high-speed user traffic between satellites.
The joint development of the ground network system actually began about two years ago. The current agreement includes equipment to support multiple satellite access points in gateway locations around the world, each including a custom switching complex, outdoor modems and power amplifiers. Shipments are expected to begin in mid-2018.
“The start of production of the ground system is a major step towards fulfilling OneWeb’s goal of bridging the digital divide, leaving no one behind,” said Greg Wyler, founder and executive chairman of OneWeb, in a press release. “Hughes has been an outstanding technology partner and we are excited to deploy this essential part of our network as we ramp up to launch the first of our fleet early next year and provide service to every rural home in Alaska starting in 2019.”
Wyler outlined OneWeb’s progress for lawmakers during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing last month that brought satellite industry leaders together to discuss the current and future status of the satellite industry. Earlier this year, OneWeb broke ground on an $85 million facility in Florida where it will be capable of producing 15 satellites per week when it opens next year. OneWeb will be launching hundreds of satellites in order to achieve its goal of bridging the digital divide.
By 2020, OneWeb plans to reach every square mile of America and its territories. The initial system will have peak speeds of 500 Mbps, and with the second constellation, planned for 2021, it promises to increase the speed up to 2.5 Gbps for every rural home. A third constellation planned for 2023 will continue to increase its total capacity until it can reach 1 billion users globally by 2025.
OneWeb has a lot of eyes watching it after raising nearly $2 billion in equity from shareholders including Qualcomm, Hughes, Intelsat, Coca-Cola, Airbus Group, the Virgin Group and SoftBank Group. The Virgin Group’s Sir Richard Branson and Qualcomm Executive Chairman Paul E. Jacobs, Ph.D., are on OneWeb’s board.