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Future of Satellite Internet: OneWeb vs Starlink
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Future of Satellite Internet: OneWeb vs Starlink
by Brad Bartz
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Jul 20, 2023

Satellite constellations may well be the future of the Internet because they can ensure fibre-free coverage even in the most remote corners of the world. So, it should come as no surprise that many companies are already working in this direction. Elon Musk's Starlink and UK-based OneWeb were one of the first companies to have grasped the potential of satellite Internet, and it's more than probable that these two players will lead the upcoming market soon enough. So, we decided to take a better look at OneWeb vs Starlink comparison to understand their main features and differences.

Target Audience and Market Segment
Starlink and OneWeb will, firstly, be different in terms of a chosen market segment. Starlink is already selling its services to the end-users, while OneWeb is targeting other companies (Internet of Things, mostly) rather than the end users. So, is OneWeb internet available? Not just yet, but it should become fully operational in late 2023. Starlink, however, is already accessible to interested users in North America and Europe.

What is the cost of satellite Internet access?
Starlink's monthly cost is $99, but to start getting access to wireless Internet from space, users will have to first pay for a terminal activation that also costs $99. This fee is only applicable to first-time users, and later on, they only pay a fixed monthly fee.

OneWeb has not announced its prices yet, but its fees should be somewhere between $1000 and $1500 a month. This difference seems drastic, but keep in mind that OneWeb is not charging a single consumer - they provide access to IoT companies that later redistribute their services to individual users.

Speed Comparison OneWeb and Starlink
In most locations, Starlink can guarantee 50-150Mb/s connectivity speed with latency from 20ms to 40ms. However, Orbital Today reports that Starlink should eventually increase its speed to 300Mb/s.

OneWeb, when it is finally available, should offer pretty much the same upload speed of 150Mb/s, even though some of its tests have reached a higher figure of 400 Mb/s. However, OneWeb latency is slightly higher, too - 45ms.

So, as far as connectivity is concerned, what is the difference between Starlink and OneWeb? These two constellations are rather alike, with OneWeb relying on Ku-band and Starlink using Ka- and E-band in addition to Ku-band. One more purely technical difference is the altitude - Starlink satellites are placed 550 kilometres above our planet, while the OneWeb constellation should operate higher, at a 1,200-kilometre altitude.

OneWeb Vs Starlink Size: Launched and Upcoming Satellites
Considering that OneWeb plans to use IoT companies as intermediaries and Starlink already sells to users directly, it should come as no surprise that Elon Musk's constellation should have more satellites. Right now, there are over five thousand satellites in the Starlink constellation already, but the end plan is to have 42,000! Notably, an original plan when the first Starlink launches began in 2018 was to deploy only 12,000 smallsats, but eventually, Starlink submitted a proposal to launch another 30,000. Soon enough, this application should be approved, and the Starlink network will keep on growing.

OneWeb plans are way more moderate - 7,000 satellites in LEO, out of which less than 500 have been launched so far. Originally, OneWeb launched its smallsats on Russian Soyuz rockets, but after Western countries imposed sanctions against Russian Federation and its space agency Roscomos, this deal was cut short. For some time, there was talk about OneWeb launches on Indian rockets, but eventually, OneWeb signed a launch contract with SpaceX. This unlikely deal leads us to another question - aren't Starlink and OneWeb competitors? Well, not exactly - and not just because they target different markets.

Growing Competition and Future of Satellite Internet
Satellite Internet is a new and still unsaturated niche, so it should come as no surprise that several companies are working to fill it. Starlink and OneWeb are definitely not the only promising players. There is also Amazon with its project Kuiper, promising up to 400 Mb/s speed with just 3,000 satellites and Viasat already boasting 600,00 subscribers even while ensuring significantly lower speeds of 100 Mb/s. Today, experts believe that this market totally has room for more than just one company - in fact, it is very unlikely that a single provider will be able to monopolize such a vast niche.

So, does Starlink have a future? Certainly, just like many others. However, the primary advantage of Starlink and OneWeb is that these two companies were the first ones to see the full potential of satellite internet. Of course, since Starlink is already available, it will most likely lead this market in the next few years. Still, OneWeb, with its focus on IoT companies and other operators selling to consumer or business segments, will certainly have their slice of the market, too.

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