Incredible: OneWeb’s satellites deliver real-time HD streaming from space

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British space company OneWeb has announced the results of the first live test of its six satellites In testing, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites were capable of beaming high-speed internet, at more than 400 Mbps, and at very low latency. This is the first proven test of the OneWeb satellites, launched back in February in French Guiana.

OneWeb satellite
OneWeb’s first testing of their satellite connectivity has been a great success. Photo: OneWeb

The race for LEO broadband has seen a number of operators striving to be the first to prove their systems. This week, OneWeb nosed ahead, with a positive test result proving the impressive capabilities of its forthcoming service.

Adrian Steckel, CEO of OneWeb, commented on the test results in a media release, saying,

“Our tests prove that OneWeb will enable very high speed and low latency connectivity everywhere and we are on schedule to offer the service globally in 24 months. OneWeb is going to transform the way we think about connectivity and how we use it.”

You can watch a short video of testing below.

OneWeb is forging ahead with its program, thanks to the backing of investors and extensive list of commercial partners, who include Arianespace, Airbus, Qualcomm Technologies Inc., Virgin, and Hughes.

The connectivity tests

Testing took place in Seoul, South Korea, in partnership with Intellian and SatixFy. Intellian is the developer and manufacturer of OneWeb’s user’s terminals, whereas SatixFy is the partner responsible for the 125 MHz SCPC test modem.

During the tests, assessments were made for latency, speed, jitter, handover between satellites and power control. The results were nothing short of incredible.

First oneweb satellites
The first OneWeb satellites at the Airbus facility in Toulouse. Photo: Airbus

In latency testing, the average for the OneWeb array was 32 milliseconds. To put this in perspective, Tested cites anything under 50ms is considered good enough for HD gaming, whereas around 100ms is an average for most home users.

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In addition to this, the handover between beams and satellites were found to be seamless. Antenna pointing and tracking were spot on too, and speeds were blistering, with test speed rates of more than 400 Mbps. This allowed testers to stream a music video in 1080p (full HD) quality during the test.

A speed of 400 Mbps exceeds the fixed-line average for every nation in the world, according to ISP Preview, with the majority of home users still struggling to achieve more than 100 Mbps. In terms of mobile connectivity, the current 4G network is still averaging around 23 Mbps, although some nations, including Norway and Iceland, enjoy connections closer to 60 Mbps.

The OneWeb production line at the Airbus Toulouse facility. Photo: Airbus

Although these tests were conducted using a network with minimal congestion effects present, the initial results are highly encouraging.

With speeds like this in the pipeline, the future of next-generation connectivity via satellite offers limitless possibilities. Whether it’s conducting FaceTime calls, using Google’s mapping services or streaming entertainment anywhere in the world, OneWeb is confident that they’re building a platform for the future.

What’s next for OneWeb

This year has seen OneWeb launching their first six satellites in February, the first of a fleet set to grow to more than 650 by next year. Their timeline is to allow customer demonstrations in 2020, with provision for full global coverage by 2021.

This first trial deployment of their first six LEO satellites will be followed by what is considered to be the largest satellite launch campaign in history. Starting in the last quarter of this year, OneWeb will begin launching more than 30 satellites at a time, to reach their goal of 650 satellites by 2020. According to TASS, a contract has been signed for this to take place at Russia’s Vostochnyy space center.

Oneweb coverage
OneWeb have a target for 650 satellites initially, but this could grow to almost 2,000 in time. Image: OneWeb

However, they aren’t stopping there. OneWeb have said they will launch additional satellites as demand requires. They have commented that the final fleet could consist of up to 1,980 LEO satellites providing global coverage and connectivity.

The satellites themselves are built by Airbus and stand around two feet tall weighing in at just 150kg. Smaller, faster and more powerful than previous models, they use the Ka-band to connect with the OneWeb system and the Internet, and the Ku band for communication between satellites and user terminals.

However, OneWeb is not alone in the market for LEO broadband services. Competitors such as SpaceX and Amazon are also competing for market share, although OneWeb appears to be furthest along the road, and are the first to publish results of their live testing.

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