AT&T has committed to utilizing OneWeb’s low-earth-orbit satellites to expand high-speed internet services to locations in the United States where it does not have fiber. Their collaboration will concentrate on improving connectivity for commercial and government users, as well as using satellites to link hard-to-reach cell towers around the country.
According to AT&T, upwards of 2.5 million businesses in the United States have high-speed access, and over nine million commercial client locations are within 1,000 feet of the fiber network. However, the telecom emphasized the numerous rural places where expanding high-speed fiber networks is either too costly or geographically difficult.
Sunil Bharti Mittal, executive chair of OneWeb, announced the deal in his Satellite 2021 speech on September 8, saying that the “U.S. industry now has a large distributor in the kind of AT&T.” When asked what services AT&T will supply as part of the OneWeb alliance, he first mentioned the possibility of quicker and more reliable cellular backhaul.
Mittal believes that better cellular backhaul will allow AT&T to build base stations where none now exist. He also emphasized the potential to improve AT&T’s enterprise services, as well as “government delivery of numerous types of broadband services,” citing the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund for billions in subsidies as justification for OneWeb’s vision and business plan.
“That implies there are still big areas of the United States that are unconnected or under-connected,” he said. OneWeb is amid “dozens of advanced conversations” with other telecom partners, according to Mittal. On June 27, the company formed a distributor deal with British telco BT. Mittal is the founder and chairman of Bharti, an Indian conglomerate that owns a large telecoms firm in India named Airtel and is a OneWeb investor.
During the conference, he said Airtel will join with OneWeb to reach India, Southeast Asia, and many nations in Sub-Saharan Africa. He said OneWeb plans to deliver partial solutions in the Northern Hemisphere within the next 60-90 days when approximately half of the 648-strong constellation has been deployed.
Alaska “will definitely go first with our services,” Mittal added, noting that OneWeb has collaborated with local telecom Alaska Communications. OneWeb intends to deliver full commercial services in the year 2022, and Mittal stated that the company aims to have signed a telecom provider in every country as it seeks to acquire global market access. He emphasized the difficult regulatory environment in 30 nations, particularly 12-13 of which OneWeb has indeed been able to reach. “Some of them are quite huge markets,” he continued.
“We need the authorization to build our… ground stations, and we need permission to utilize the spectrum in their countries,” she says. We require authorization to enter the market and supply services.”