The marriage between Eutelsat and OneWeb in five questions

The race of the stars has been restarted and a French company leads. French satellite operator Eutelsat announced on Tuesday that it had signed “a memorandum of understanding” to merge with Britain’s OneWeb, in which it is the second-largest shareholder after Indian group Bharti Global. The objective is stated: to simultaneously enter the high-speed Internet market from space and try to overshadow the Starlink project run by American Elon Musk’s SpaceX company. OneWeb already has a beautiful constellation of 428 satellites, with deployment to be completed by the end of 2022.

Who are Eutelsat and OneWeb?

On the one hand, Eutelsat is one of the major space operators founded in the late 1970s. With its 35 satellites located 36,000 kilometers from Earth, the French operator allows the transmission of 7,000 television channels. In 274 million homes worldwide. It also provides high speed internet.

On the other hand, OneWeb, a company created in 2014, specializes in Internet broadcasting from space. It already has 428 satellites placed in low orbit several hundreds of kilometers above sea level. OneWeb expects to finish deploying its 648 satellites by the end of the year. The company already provides high-speed Internet to businesses, governments and local communities in Northern Europe, the UK, Alaska and Canada. Unlike Starlink and Kuiper (Amazon Constellation, See below in the article), OneWeb will not provide services to individuals.

Why this wedding?

In a way, this comparison makes sense. Eutelsat already owns 23% of OneWeb’s capital. Broadband Internet delivery is a growing market “Booming”, “An estimated $16 billion by 2030” According to a Eutelsat press release issued on Monday. However, while the deal between OneWeb and Eutelsat is on track, it is not yet certain whether it will succeed.

Internet from space, what is it for?

Having an Internet network, wherever you are, in the mountains, deep valleys, in the middle of the desert, by the sea or in rural areas: here is the promise of spatial Internet. While 5G is developing in our mobile, as we use our telephones and connected objects more and more, this spatial internet makes possible both very high speeds and very low latency. Demand is immense.

How does it work?

These satellites are very close to Earth, even visible to the naked eye on a summer night, as they are placed at a distance between 550 km and 1,200 km in altitude. Until then, machines in geostationary orbit are at an altitude of more than 35,000 km. If they promise speeds three to five times faster than ADSL, this distance means they cannot reach the performance of fiber and are handicapped by the delay between the order and the execution of the request.

For example to get internet connection sent by Starlink, Just put a satellite dish in your garden. On the other hand, these new satellites are much more vulnerable than geostationary satellites which have a shorter lifespan, as shown by the loss of dozens of devices. Starlink after a magnetic storm Last February. results, “They have to be constantly replaced.” In an interview with AFP, several experts say, about the risk “Quality” Also space debris. According to The World“Satellite communications represent less than 1% of the global data transport market”.

Who will be the competitor of this mastodon?

The competition is already tough. The most advanced is undoubtedly the Starlink satellite network, owned by tycoon Elon Musk. More than half of its constellation’s 4,408 satellites have already been deployed. He finally wants 42,000. The service already works in several countries, Like UkraineWhere Starlink has become the only way to stay connected.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos also wants to develop the spatial internet with the Kuiper project. Aim to send 3,236 satellites. Bezos will rely on his Blue Origin satellite launcher, but not only. ArianeSpace will be responsible for 18 launches in Europe. Prototype will be launched At the end of the year.

Among other projects, Chinese Guang also plans to launch a mega constellation of 13,000 satellites. recalls the site SpaceNews. United Arab Emirates Also want to be a part, Like Canadian Telesat. In Europe, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton has expressed it repeatedly Aiming to create a European satellite constellation. Tenders have been invited. Its budget is six billion euros. Commissioning is planned for 2024, Then a full deployment for 2028.

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