Sunil Mittal, the chairman of Bharti Enterprises, said during an August 20 webinar facilitated by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) that OneWeb should begin giving broadband early in 2022 from a constellation of low-Earth-orbit satellites, and that plans are in progress to construct a few gate stations in India for domestic administrations.
“OneWeb is going to be the world’s first LEO satellite constellation flying about 648 satellites at 1,200 kilometers, covering every inch of the globe,” Mittal said.
Bharti Enterprises and the British government are purchasing OneWeb, pledging in July to each contribute $500 million to restore the bankrupt endeavor.
However, neither Bharti nor the British government recently demonstrated that the constellation would have a similar number of satellites OneWeb planned before entering Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March.
OneWeb has 74 satellites in orbit, and will require a lot more launches in addition to the rollout of a few ground stations before it can offer worldwide service.
Preceding petitioning for financial protection, OneWeb was focusing on worldwide service in 2021.
Mittal didn’t state when launches would continue, yet said the plan is for OneWeb to “start to deliver these services in the early part of ‘22 once the constellation is going to be up.”
Test administrations will begin in late 2021 once OneWeb’s coverage reaches out over arctic regions and northern European nations, Mittal said.
With that inclusion, “we will have started to test a lot of ground and user terminals,” Mittal said. “It is here we would like to see ISRO’s hand and support in work to develop user terminals which cater to the needs of Indian requirements.”
The nonexistence of cheap user terminals for high-speed consumer broadband from LEO satellites is a critical concern for OneWeb and the satellite industry. Current user terminals that can work with LEO broadband satellites are either based on flat, phased-array antennas or mechanical tracking antennas with two dishes — both expensive approaches.
Antenna challenges notwithstanding, Mittal said Bharti Enterprises has “already earmarked a lot of areas in India where the benefits of this LEO constellation broadband connectivity will be made available.”
“We will also seek to build a very strong cooperation agreement with ISRO to see the combination of a GEO-LEO constellation for Indian territory is put to use where we can combine the strength and capacity requirements of the nation,” he included.
ISRO provides satellite broadband across India through its fleet of locally assembled GSAT geostationary satellites. The organization operates 15 geostationary communications satellites, as per the ISRO website, which provide broadband and broadcast services.