OneWeb inked a new deal with Hughes Networks to bring its satellite-based internet service to earth.
Under the $190 million contract, Hughes Networks will produce gateway sites equipped with multiple tracking satellite access points which will enable ground operation and high-speed handoffs of user traffic between OneWeb’s constellation of low earth orbit (LEO) satellites.
Each access point will include a custom switching mechanism, outdoor modems and power amplifiers: the equipment is expected to begin shipping in mid-2018.
OneWeb, which is backed by tech giants including SoftBank and Qualcomm, indicated the latest agreement puts it on track to deliver broadband to rural areas starting in 2019.
“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,” OneWeb founder Greg Wyler said in a statement: “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.”
In 2015, OneWeb got the ball rolling on its goal to close the broadband gap in remote areas when it selected Airbus Group to manufacture the 900 satellites which make up its network. The figure includes a web of 700 LEO satellites and 200 ground-based units.
OneWeb and Airbus broke ground on a Florida manufacturing facility for those satellites in March, which will be capable of producing 15 satellites per week once functional. However, the pair already began work on OneWeb’s first ten satellites in June at Airbus’ facility in Toulouse, France.