In a major boost to rollout commercial internet services, Britain-based tech company OneWeb has taken the giant lead by driving 36 satellites into orbit of the northern hemisphere. The move is likely to pave the way for opening up commercial internet services later this year.
OneWeb, at present, has more than 200 satellites in orbit as part of push to provide a global internet service. The company in a statement on Thursday said the launch from Russia’s Far East would allow it to offer connectivity everywhere north of 50 degrees latitude.
According to the global tech giant, the launch will bring full internet connectivity to the United Kingdom, Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, continental US, the Arctic Seas and Canada.
The company plans to offer commercial service by the end of 2021 and expand operations globally next year. “Service demonstrations will begin in several key locations this summer, including in Alaska and Canada,” the company said.
Earlier on Thursday the satellites were blasted into orbit by a Soyuz rocket from Russia’s Vostochny cosmodrome. The rocket bore the message “Hello North Pole” on it, OneWeb said.
The remote energy-rich Arctic region, which has poor communications infrastructure, has taken on greater significance for world powers as ice has melted due to climate change.
OneWeb resumed satellite launches in December after emerging from bankruptcy protection with $1 billion in equity investment from a consortium of the British government and India’s Bharti Enterprises.
It has also received investment from Japan’s Softbank and Eutelsat Communications, and further financing from Bharti. OneWeb said on Tuesday it was fully-funded and had secured $2.4 billion in total.