OneWeb to Conduct First Sea Trial of its LEO Satellite Broadband Service

British-registered satellite operator OneWeb has teamed up with smart network provider Marlink to help the operator conduct the first at-sea trial of their new Low Earth Orbit (LEO) based maritime service for ultrafast broadband connectivity.

The initial integration and evaluation will take place at Marlink’s Eik teleport (Norway), with installation and an on-vessel trial scheduled for Q4 2022. In co-operation with hardware providers Intellian and Hughes Network Systems, Marlink will carry out tests of the OneWeb maritime service validating throughput, latency and quality. Testing of hardware will include review of stability, signal tracking and handover capability.

OneWeb has so far managed to launch 428 of their small c.150kg Low Earth Orbit (LEO) based ultrafast (100Mbps+) and low-latency (sub-100ms) broadband satellites into space – orbiting at an altitude of around 1,200km – and their initial plan is to build a constellation of 648 (588 are needed for coverage – the rest are for redundancy), which is enough for a reasonable level of global coverage.

The company, much like rival operator Starlink (SpaceX) that has already launched its own ‘Maritime’ product and signed-up the odd cruise line to boot, has historically targeted maritime solutions as one of their primary focuses. As such, the news of their first trial does not come as a big surprise.

Marlink ultimately plans to integrate OneWeb’s LEO constellation into their existing hybrid network solutions alongside GEO, MEO and 4G/5G services to serve its large commercial maritime and offshore markets.

Carole Plessy, VP of Europe and Maritime, OneWeb, said:

“OneWeb’s LEO service will bring a completely new kind of connectivity to maritime users, providing a high level of quality and performance that will deliver a richer, more immersive and terrestrial-like user experience onboard ships.

This is a watershed moment for the maritime connectivity market, together with our trusted partner Marlink the testing and evaluation will ensure that we have a fully robust and reliable service in place when commercial operations begin.”

Assuming all goes to plan, OneWeb will aim to launch its first commercial maritime service from January 2023. The network is already delivering high-speed connectivity to hundreds of customers in remote communities in Alaska, Canada, the Nordics and the North Sea. But the operator won’t achieve global coverage until the end of 2023.

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