A new low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite network will offer broadband connectivity to maritime and offshore industries after a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed
OneWeb, owned by the UK Government and Bharti Global, has formed a partnership with the AST Group to deliver a LEO satellite constellation to the shipping sector. Through this agreement, customer beta trials will be undertaken with AST before the end of this year.
These will first focus on delivering fixed services to support remote connectivity in northern Europe. Once full commercial service is available in 2022, AST will offer OneWeb satellite communications to commercial shipping, fishing and offshore support sectors.
High-speed, low-latency connectivity will be provided as an alternative to the current VSAT internet solutions delivered through geostationary orbiting satellites.
OneWeb and AST expect to offer connectivity to improve crew communications, regulatory compliance and operational efficiencies.
“We believe connectivity at sea should be as seamless and simple as it is onshore to improve the overall efficiency, sustainability and profitability of the maritime and offshore industries,” said OneWeb head of maritime Carole Plessy. “We are proud to work with AST because of our shared belief that remote, faultless connectivity is essential to delivering operational excellence.”
She said AST has the market reach and capabilities to ensure OneWeb communications will be tested in marine and offshore environments. “By partnering with AST, we are another step closer to making LEO connectivity available to more marine and offshore customers, ending the legacy of complex, slow and costly VSAT systems,” said Ms Plessy.
AST founder and chairman Gregory Darling said there was alignment between OneWeb LEO and AST’s network services. “By becoming a distribution partner, we can offer customers a fibre-like alternative to current solutions,” he said.
“OneWeb’s new satellite constellation and next-generation connectivity, aligned with AST’s Integra network services, will enable faster and better communications for the maritime industry. This new agreement marks further progress towards this transition,” Mr Darling added.
This MOU comes after OneWeb contracted Intellian Technologies to develop and produce satellite communications terminals for maritime and offshore applications.
Intellian gained a US$73M contract in Q1 2021 to manufacture compact terminals, with the first ready for testing later this year. Intellian expects these antennas and associated onboard hardware to become widely available in 2022.
In January 2021, OneWeb raised US$1.4Bn to complete its initial LEO constellation. This came after OneWeb was rescued from administrators in Q4 2020 by the UK Government and Bharti Global, which enabled OneWeb to restart launches and continue to build its ground-station network and user terminal development.
OneWeb secured funding from SoftBank Group and Hughes Network Systems to enable the manufacture, launch and commissioning of the first 648 satellites in the constellation by the end of 2022.
Satellite communications and ship connectivity will be discussed during Riviera Maritime Media’s free technical and operational webinars in 2021. Sign up to attend on our events page