How OneWeb’s Satellite Constellation Works: A Beginner’s Guide

How OneWeb works -- a beginner's guide


The internet is the singular connection point for billions of people worldwide to access essential healthcare, education and communication services. However, global internet connectivity is still lacking. In the United States alone, over 42 million Americans lack access to high-speed internet.

As one of the world’s leading providers of space-based internet, OneWeb aims to narrow these gaps in internet access by providing wireless broadband internet worldwide via its satellite constellation.

This article will explore how OneWeb’s satellite constellation enhances vital global internet connectivity.   

What is OneWeb’s Satellite Constellation?

OneWeb’s satellite constellation is a group of satellites launched into space to provide internet connectivity to users across the globe. At the end of 2022, OneWeb launched 40 satellites into space, putting  502 satellites in orbit.

The company plans to launch satellites into space three more times in 2023, reaching its global internet coverage goal of 100% first-generation satellites in orbit. By deploying a large satellite constellation into space, OneWeb will dramatically transform the future of internet connectivity.

How Are OneWeb’s Satellites Launched?

OneWeb collaborates with companies like SpaceX and NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) to launch its satellites. The satellites lift off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, where they are fastened to a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket

When deployed, OneWeb satellites (each weighing close to 325 pounds) launch into an orbit of less than 400 miles from Earth. Then, they maneuver through space using xenon ion thrusters, taking several months to reach an operational altitude of 745 miles above the Earth.

Once they are halfway around the world, the satellites are stacked to integrate with a GSLV Mk.3 rocket, which lifts off from India a few months later.

As of March 2023, OneWeb has launched over 544 satellites on 16 missions spread across:

  • 13 Russian Soyuz rockets
  • Two SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets
  • One Indian Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle

Interestingly, only two of the 544 satellite launches failed, pointing to OneWeb’s overall success in launching these satellites into space. 


How OneWeb’s Satellites Communicate with Earth

By design, OneWeb’s satellites broadcast high-speed, low-latency broadband internet signals to users worldwide. 

Unlike traditional Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit (GEO) communications satellites which orbit over 36,000 miles from Earth, OneWeb’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites broadcast signals at only 745 miles away, providing lower latency.

In internet connectivity terms, latency is the total duration for data to travel from one point to another. Traditional satellite broadband internet providers’ connections time out after 350 milliseconds. However, OneWeb’s satellites orbit the Earth 13 times daily, significantly reducing lag time.

As a result, users benefit from faster and more reliable internet connectivity regardless of location and industry. Cellular, community WiFi, maritime and aviation users in different parts of the world can simultaneously access the internet at high speeds.


How Do OneWeb’s Satellites Stay in Orbit?

In principle, OneWeb’s satellites operate similarly to traditional satellites. Satellites stay in orbit because they travel at supersonic speeds, overcoming gravity’s downward pull. To achieve such speeds, satellites are launched at significantly high velocities—over 17,000 miles per hour—attached to a rocket.

Upon reaching a predetermined location in space, the rocket drops the satellite into orbit at the same speed as at launch. However, the velocity at which satellites orbit the Earth will depend on their specific orbit location.

The Difference Between GEO and LEO Satellites 

The pull from gravity is stronger as satellites orbit closer to the Earth, meaning they require higher velocities and more energy to stay in orbit. This principle applies to LEO satellites like OneWeb, which orbit at distances nearly 30 times closer to the Earth than GEO satellites.

The reverse is true for GEO satellites orbiting farther from the Earth—they travel at lower velocities to remain in orbit and overcome gravity.

Although satellites have their own fuel reserves, they only use this energy when changing orbit or avoiding collision with debris in space. Satellites can also stay in orbit for decades when launched from the Earth.


How Do OneWeb’s Satellites Provide Internet Access?

Once they are fully deployed and orbiting in space, OneWeb’s satellites provide speedy internet access to users across the globe. So, how exactly does this work?

By eliminating the need to  install fiber-optic cables, OneWeb opens up internet access to millions or even billions of users. OneWeb’s satellites orbit in space close to the Earth, reducing latency and providing all users the same level of internet access. 

Benefits and Limitations of OneWeb’s Internet Service

Like all  technologies, OneWeb’s internet service has its fair share of limitations. However, the benefits of OneWeb tend to outweigh them. Let’s break these down.

By rolling out fast, more accessible internet to users across the globe, OneWeb will enable:

  • Streamlined internet-based application use for enterprises and governments
  • Location- and infrastructure-independent access to the internet for rural areas
  • Internet affordability without the prohibitive costs of fiber-optic installation
  • Decentralized connectivity to overcome censoring barriers
  • Faster emergency and first responder action with unhindered internet access
  • Environmental protection  since there’s no need to install cables undersea

Limitation-wise, deployment of OneWeb’s internet service will likely result in:

  • Challenges and troubleshooting issues with satellite internet transmissions, except with high-level expertise in satellite technologies 
  • Potential hindrances to internet access in heavily wooded areas or during extreme weather conditions

Regardless, satellite internet solutions will advance connectivity worldwide and streamline internet use in industries like healthcare, agriculture, oil and gas and many more. 


Fast, Reliable and Secure Internet Access with IP Access

With hundreds of satellites providing access to low-latency, broadband internet, OneWeb is changing the future of internet access and space technology. Once the constellation is live, customers across industries and geographic locations will tap into faster communication and connectivity solutions.

At IP Access, we’re leveraging OneWeb’s satellite constellation to provide our users with fast, robust internet when and where they need it most. So whether you’re a first responder handling a life-threatening emergency or a public safety department managing a potential health hazard, our connectivity solutions at IP Access can help.

Our all-in-one connectivity solution, SuperGIG, transforms your internet experience by providing a reliable broadband connection that blends a dual-satellite network and multiple LTE carriers. When using SuperGIG to access the internet daily, you will benefit from a reliable, high-speed, uninterrupted satellite connection.

Contact us today to learn more about SuperGIG and other internet connectivity solutions.