OneWeb broadband is coming to the Last Frontier, and it’s beaming down from the Final Frontier

by Shawn Williams

Nicknames aside, the exciting fact is that true broadband internet connectivity–a difficult struggle to achieve in many rural Alaska communities–is finally close to reality. OneWeb is currently the only LEO middle mile provider promising to cover all of Alaska and we’ve made the last frontier our first priority. We intend to show that this entire state, with all its unique and beautiful geography, can truly be connected.

With our last launch of 36 satellites on June 1, OneWeb currently has a total of 218 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites in the sky. We can now cover Alaska completely with 24-7 service, and that will happen before September 2021.

This modern system works by taking the Internet signal via fiber to a large antenna, called a gateway, which beams it by Ka band radio waves up to a satellite. The satellite then sends it back down to Earth using Ku band radio waves, where it is captured by a small terminal and connected to a modem. In fact, we put one of our gateways in Talkeetna, Alaska at Microcom’s Talkeetna Alaska Teleport. This gateway will be key to connecting Alaskans statewide. At this time, it is the largest OneWeb gateway in the world.

No longer will rural Alaska be left behind in the ongoing digital revolution that has improved business, education, and personal life around the world. OneWeb will also play a critical role in helping close Alaska’s ever-growing digital divide. Doing business online will soon be as simple in Naknek as it is in Anchorage. Residents of Sleetmute and Russian Mission will be able to track the meetings of the Alaska Legislature as easily as those in Juneau. Children on the North Slope and the Seward Peninsula will be able to engage in distance learning just as easily as their urban peers.

Most recently, the U.S. military recognized the potential for Low Earth Orbit satellite connectivity in the Arctic when it selected OneWeb to demonstrate managed LEO satellite communications services to connect the Arctic region to sites around the globe. This is a major step forward not only for OneWeb, but for Arctic security and the development of a reliable and resilient circumpolar communications network.

Since the OneWeb satellite network circulates in Low Earth Orbit, the distance from the satellites to your school, health clinic or business is shorter than most and we will be able to offer data speeds up to 195 Mpbs with less than 100-milliseconds latency. This will enable any customer to conduct data-intensive activities like 4K video streaming and competitive online gaming or even telemedicine appointments and medical procedures.

The modern knowledge economy is built on speedy, reliable access to information, and OneWeb’s connectivity will enable new industries to take foot in rural areas of Alaska. As our state’s economic future shifts away from a primarily resource-extraction model, Alaskans will be able to lead this transition with new ways of doing business.

Most importantly, OneWeb believes the best way to connect Alaska is to work in partnership with Alaskans. Their integrated space-to-ground team includes both Pacific Dataport, Alaska’s wholesale capacity distributor, and Microcom, owner of the Talkeetna Alaska Teleport and direct-to-consumer provider. Both are trusted Alaskan companies who give OneWeb the ability to offer both wholesale and residential service, making sure that schools, health clinics, businesses and individuals alike can benefit from increased Internet access.

OneWeb is committed to connecting all of Alaska. Together we can build dreams, diversify Alaska’s economy and preserve Alaska Native ways of life.

Shawn Williams is the VP of Government Affairs and Strategy for Pacific Dataport in Anchorage. He’s a 40-year resident of Alaska and former Assistant Commissioner of Commerce for the State of Alaska. Shawn is a member of the Karuk Tribe of California, earned a BA in Economics at the University of Alaska, Anchorage and an Executive MBA in Strategic Leadership at Alaska Pacific University. Contact him directly at [email protected]

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