‘40 satellites, one rocket’: a new launch may improve Alaskan internet quality

Alaskans may soon see a boost for internet speeds around the state following the launch of a new satellite today.
Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 8:26 AM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - On the afternoon of Thursday, December 8, Florida hosted the launch of a SpaceX rocket with special significance for the State of Alaska.

The company OneWeb is deploying 40 satellites the size of washing machines into orbit, adding to those it has already circling.

According to OneWeb’s CEO Neil Masterson, the company already has a strong presence in Alaska, “but by launching more satellites, it means we have greater satellite concentration over Alaska, so it just improves the service.”

Many in the state could begin to notice better internet access, higher speeds, and even lower cost as early as April 2023. “We can serve more people, to enable people to have the same benefits out wherever they are in Alaska that you do if you’re in Fairbanks or Anchorage, or New York or London for that matter,” said Masterson.

OneWeb’s satellites provide service to companies like Alaska Communications and Pacific Dataport, Inc., who then provide that service to Alaskans.

The company already used the state to test their equipment, as its arctic environment carries unique challenges. “Our customers in Alaska have been extremely helpful in giving us feedback about what we’re not doing right, so we have work to do,” Masterson said.

Thursday’s event marks the company’s first launch with SpaceX, on a rocket more than 200 feet tall. “We are their customer, but they are also our competitor, because obviously SpaceX controls Starlink, and we compete with Starlink in terms of connectivity,” said Masterson, adding, “We’re kind of frenemies, frankly.”

Following this launch, OneWeb eventually hopes to provide coverage to the rest of the lower-48, according to Masterson. “So Alaska got it first, and it’ll be better in Alaska than anywhere else in the U.S.”

The company is planning four more launches next spring to expand its coverage around the world, totaling 640 satellites.