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A new solution: OneWeb to use low-Earth orbit satellites to bring internet to the most remote areas of Alaska

Published: Mar. 23, 2021 at 10:04 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Hundreds of satellites are circling the globe in low-Earth orbit with the goal of bringing internet access to remote and under-served communities. That is part of the OneWeb Technology plan. Ideally, this will eventually be a worldwide endeavor but it’s going to begin with service right here in Alaska.

“When the company was originally founded, this mission to connect the hardest to reach places was really at the heart of the idea and the heart of the design. And that led us to wanting to make Alaska the focus as we launch our network,” says OneWeb Communications Director Katie Dowd.

Wednesday, OneWeb will launch a new batch of their Constellation devices into space carrying 36 of the more than 600 total satellites it will require to make this ambitious idea a reality. According to literature from OneWeb, they hope to be up and running by late 2021 with 100% coverage of Alaska on day one.

“It’s a very exciting time for Alaskan’s to realize in those very hard to reach places where terrain has been a challenge, the cost of infrastructure has been a challenge, they’ll be an opportunity to be connected to the rest of the world,” says former Alaska State Senator and OneWeb Consultant Lesil Maguire.

As exciting as this new venture is and with the prospect of what it could mean to Alaskan villages, there are still some nerves as the project gets up and running, especially where the launch of the Constellation satellites is concerned.

“Liftoff is like the most intense two minutes of our lives and then there are these several hours where actually the satellites leave the rocket in batches. So the 36 don’t leave all at once, they leave in a series of separations is what we call it, so it takes hours for those separations to happen and you hold your breath to make sure everyone is going as planned,” says Dowd.

Wednesday at 6:47 p.m. AKST OneWeb will launch its fifth rocket, you can watch that launch on their website as well as through their Twitter account or Facebook page.

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