According to the International Telecommunications Union, over half of the world's population has no access to the internet. A new plan, however, could provide access to billions of those people. OneWeb says it will launch a network of satellites that will provide global high-speed internet access.
A number of other projects that are aiming to help deliver global internet access have previously been announced. Google's Project Loon aims to float internet-connected balloons over remote areas, whilst a Facebook and internet.org collaboration and Quarkson plan to do so using drones.
OneWeb's approach differs to all of these ideas. The firm has received investment from Virgin and Qualcomm to launch 648 micro-satellites into orbit. The satellites will provide low-latency, high-speed internet access and, according to Virgin, will comprise the world’s largest-ever satellite network.
In order to deliver internet access, the satellites will connect to terminals that will be deployed on the ground where required. OneWeb says the terminals will be self-installable and will provide connectivity to their surrounding areas via Wi-Fi, LTE, 3G or 2G licensed to a mobile operator, or just Wi-Fi or LTE on the unlicensed spectrum. The network will also apparently be able to provide emergency and first responder access in disaster situations, refugee camps and other areas of need.
In addition to having invested in OneWeb, Virgin will also be the satellite launch provider for the project via its Virgin Galactic arm. The firm's LauncherOne program will be used to provide frequent satellite launches.