Friday, November 16, 2018

An in-depth interview of OneWeb Executive Chairman Greg Wyler

OneWeb is building a large constellation of low-Earth orbit (LEO) Internet-service satellites and Via Satellite has published the "definitive 2018" interview of OneWeb founder and Executive Chairman Greg Wyler. The following are some of the quotes that caught my eye:
  • The system has been designed. The satellites have been tested. They are going through final stages of testing now before the launches begin. The satellites have actually performed better than expected in many ways, especially with their Radio Frequency (RF) performance which is really positive.
  • I think we will have customers up and running in 2020.
  • Whether [our satellites] are $500 thousand (the estimate in 2015) or $1 million is virtually irrelevant because what they are not is $50 million, and that is where it started.
  • The initial customers will be in the mobility and emergency services markets (paraphrase).
  • Aviation is a big [market] for us.
  • Why not let Sprint, DT, roam onto the plane? You can give the customers 4G/5G on the same devices they are used to using in their car, at the gate, or in other places.
  • The plane itself can become a Local-Area Network (LAN) party! I have been in aviation my whole life so this is always something I have been interested in.
  • OneWeb with its first constellation will be able to make a big impact on health centers and schools.
  • I would like to keep [the number of satellites up in five years time] below 1,500.
The tone of the interview was positive, but the early emphasis on emergency and mobile services (where they will have competion from other, relatively focused LEO satellite companies like Telesat and Leosat) makes me wonder whether their goal of eliminating the digital divide by 2027 might be slipping.

If I could have asked one question, it would have been about the objection to OneWeb that has been raised by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). If the FSB succeeds in stopping OneWeb in Russia, they will lose access to a potential market. Furthermore, it would jeopardize their contract for 21 launches with the Soviet space agency Roscosmos and perhaps cost and delay the project.

This has been a quick summary of a long interview -- you should check out the full interview.