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Both OneWeb and SpaceX's Starlink form constellations with several satellites in low Earth orbit that offer internet access to anywhere on Earth from space and comparisons abound.


Starlink satellite
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons/NASA)
Earth as seen from the ISS. You can spot a Starlink satellite train in the background.

OneWeb launched 36 satellites this week, taking it closer to its target of beaming the internet into the country by the end of the year. The same place is being eyed by SpaceX's Starlink, which is already offering internet to thousands of people in a pilot scheme.

According to The Verge, billions of dollars in government funding are on the line for businesses that can bind the country. For the US military, the Arctic is a wireless wilderness, and the UK can pay a lot of money to link remote areas to the internet.

The United Kingdom is also working on a proposed $6.9 billion internet connectivity scheme dubbed 'Project Gigabit,' with government authorities consulting with SpaceX and other engineering firms.

Is OneWeb Competing With SpaceX Over Project Gigabit and Arctic Goals?

Despite the similarities, OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson, who entered the firm in November after it emerged from bankruptcy last year, told CNBC that the company does not see Elon Musk's space business as a direct competitor.

Simply put, OneWeb's "approach to the market is just somewhat different" from Starlink's, with the former focusing on enterprise clients and the latter moving straight to consumers' homes, according to Masterson.

"There are some areas where we will compete, I suspect, particularly around serving governments, but governments will always buy more than one service," Masterson told CNBC. "I think there'll be multiple players who will be able to be able to be successful in addressing their market."

OneWeb is up against Telesat, another enterprise-focused satellite provider, as well as Lockheed Martin's latest alliance with space-based 5G startup Omnispace and AST & Science's plans.

OneWeb, according to Masterson, offers fiber where there is none, or for wireless backhaul, emergency backup, or the construction of WiFi networks for remote factories and manufacturing.

Although Masterson would not reveal if OneWeb were in contact with Project Gigabit's leadership, he said that the company has been speaking to different government agencies and other organizations in the UK sector.

ALSO READ: Will SpaceX Shift Starlink Satellites if NASA Collision Happens?


What Are SpaceX's Arctic Goals?

Meanwhile, SpaceX has made considerable strides with its satellite network, thanks to massive investment rounds and cash from its billionaire maker. It has now deployed over 1,300 Starlink satellites into a lower orbit than OneWeb's constellation and is just a portion of the 30,000-satellite constellation it plans to launch.

The firm launched an open beta phase for customers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and New Zealand this year. Elon Musk's SpaceX sells a Starlink terminal package for $499 and $99 per month afterward to at least 10,000 subscribers, all of whom were ecstatic with the network's 120 megabits per second speeds.

In January, SpaceX obtained last-minute regulatory clearance to launch the first ten polar-orbiting Starlink satellites. It's now pushing the Federal Communications Commission to allow it to launch hundreds of satellites in polar orbits, where it can "carry the same high-quality broadband coverage to the most remote areas of Alaska."

According to SpaceX, that field is critical to the US military, which has been courting the Pentagon in recent years. Pentagon officials also visited SpaceX (and OneWeb) facilities as part of the US Northern Command's quest for commercial alternatives to carry quicker internet to the Arctic, an increasingly disputed territory between the US and Russia. The Air Force's Global Lightning initiative is about to enter a new process to grant satellite internet contracts in Arctic areas. Reuters said the agency awarded SpaceX $28 million in 2018 to test Starlink on military aircraft.

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