Until 2021, most of us used satellite technology for navigating from one place to another, finding the way to a destination, watching television programs/movies, etc. In the coming years, satellite internet service might replace broadband connections at home. Although satellite internet is 20+ year old technology, it started gaining traction in 2021 because of the entrance of Starlink in the business. OneWeb is considered to be a competitor of Starlink.
Starlink is owned by SpaceX. SpaceX has launched 100s of Starlink satellites to date. According to Wikipedia, around 1740 satellites were launched by SpaceX. Out of 1740, 1414 are operational.
The OneWeb company was established in 2012. The company was independent until it filed for bankruptcy after failing to get more funds for its satellite constellation projects. Before filing for bankruptcy, it had raised 500 million dollars. In 2020, India’s Bharti Airtel and the Government of the United Kingdom bailed out OneWeb by acquiring it. The company has successfully raised 500+ million dollars since January 2021. It has launched 210+ satellites in the orbit as of today. 36 satellites were launched in March 2021. OneWeb has planned to launch 500+ additional satellites. According to its official website, OneWeb is in the final phase of deploying its satellite network. By 2022, its network coverage will be global.
Starlink vs OneWeb
Target market and plans
In an interview given to CNBC, OneWeb’s CEO claimed that Starlink is focused on enterprise customers. This statement might be actually true. If you look at the prices of Tesla cars, you’ll learn that the cheapest model of Tesla i.e. Tesla Model 3 is priced at 41000 dollars. The cheapest car in the US is Chevrolet Spark which costs around 15000 dollars. SpaceX and Tesla might be interested in catering only the wealthy people or so-called Enterprise customers. Starlink has introduced the beta version of its satellite internet service in the US and Canada. It is currently charging $99 per month for high-speed low latency internet on top of $499 + 99 (499 is for hardware and the remaining is the security fee). OneWeb’s website claims that their pricing will follow the current 4g pricing models i.e. the company’s plan might be priced in the same range as 4G plans available in the US, Canada, etc.
Bharti Airtel is a major telecom operator/service provider in India and Africa. The company’s services are used by 450+ million users. It is one of the top broadband service providers in India. Starlink is owned by Elon Musk, who is currently one of the richest men in the world. Both services i.e. Starlink and OneWeb are backed by deep pockets.
When you apply for a Starlink connection, you’ll receive a kit comprising of a dish, tripod, adapter, and a WiFi router. You’ll also receive an instruction manual. You should go through the manual to set up an internet connection at your place. If you apply for a broadband connection, the broadband service provider will send a technician to set up internet at your place. OneWeb hasn’t revealed the equipments it will ship to their customer’s address yet. We expect the company to launch a kit similar to the one introduced to Starlink.
Starlink has launched iOS and Android apps that will not only guide users in installing the dish but will also make users aware of obstructions that can affect the satellite internet service. The apps enable users to see their internet usage statistics and the list of devices that are connected to their Starlink router. The applications also let users troubleshoot connection-related issues. OneWeb’s web application lets you see the network coverage only. The internet service provider has not introduced an Android or iOS application yet.
Starlink is currently in Beta. Over 90000 customers have signed up for Starlink as of today. According to Elon Musk, Starlink will be out of Beta in 2021. OneWeb is yet to introduce the Beta version of its satellite internet service yet.
Current and future players
Currently, 3 major satellite internet service providers are operating in the US – HughesNet, ViaSat, At&t. This number will go up in the coming years. Amazon has set up a subsidiary called Kuiper Systems that will build a satellite internet constellation in the coming years. Amazon will invest around 10 billion dollars in its new subsidiary.
That’s all we know about Starlink and OneWeb. We’ll keep sharing updates on these two satellite internet service providers here.