Around 40 percent of the world’s population is connected to the Internet. In the mind of entrepreneur and philanthropist Greg Wyler, that is not enough.
Wyler is the founder and CEO of a satellite Internet company called OneWeb, whose mission is to connect the entire world to the Web.
OneWeb’s goal of providing affordable high-speed Internet to rural and remote parts of the world is shared by other companies like Google, Facebook and SpaceX. But OneWeb has a different strategy than its competitors, and it has gained financial backing from Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and Qualcomm chairman Dr. Paul Jacobs.
The Daily Caller caught up with Wyler, who broke down OneWeb’s mission and strategy during a phone interview.
“[Our] mission is to enable affordable Internet access for everyone,” Wyler said. “It is one of the most important things we can do for society.”
“Imagine growing up today with no Internet access,” he continued. “You are far behind with no opportunity to grow.”
Wyler believes that if the earth’s most remote and rural populations were connected to the Internet, it would benefit all of society.
“If those people had access to the Internet and had political and civil experimentation at their fingertips — knowledge to understand how society grows, what’s true and what’s not true, and an ability to decide for themselves on what’s right and what’s wrong and how society should function — we would have a much more open and clear society globally,” Wyler explained. “It’s probably the best thing we can do to help fight against lack of knowledge that causes instability in certain parts of the world.”
In order to achieve the goal of global connectivity, OneWeb plans to launch a constellation of 648 satellites into low-earth orbit and to sell small low-cost terminals to individuals and businesses around the world. These terminals are essentially mini cell towers that emit LTE, 3G, 2G and Wi-Fi signals to connect one’s computer or cell phone to mobile network operators (MNO) via OneWeb’s satellite constellation.
In simpler terms, OneWeb’s satellites are the ricochet points between their small terminals and a MNO’s cell tower. Signals from the terminals are sent up to the satellites and then back down to earth where they are connected to the core network of the mobile operator.
Wyler explains, “We are an extension of the mobile operator’s system.”
He declined to reveal exactly how OneWeb plans to launch the satellites into orbit.
Since they would be orbiting much closer to the earth than most other satellites, they would allow for faster and more reliable Internet connection. Wyler points out that OneWeb’s system will deliver 50 megabytes of information per second at a 30 millisecond latency.
OneWeb’s system differs from those of Google, Facebook and SpaceX. Google’s Project Loon concept would send balloons into the atmosphere, which would beam Internet down to remote areas. Facebook plans to use unmanned drones, which would circle the earth and send Internet to areas below. SpaceX’s system is the most similar to OneWeb’s, as it too plans on launching hundreds of satellites into orbit. However SpaceX’s plan would cost significantly more than OneWeb’s satellite-terminal design.
When asked if he believes that OneWeb has an advantage over the competition, Wyler insisted, “it’s not about competing.”
“There are thousands of companies who are doing a great job of designing technologies and enabling affordable Internet access,” he said. “We have our plan and our vision and it’s hard to speak about what others are doing. There are so many varieties of technologies and ideas out there to enable Internet access into rural areas.”
Wyler anticipates having all satellites up and allowing people to buy their terminals and connect to the Web by 2019. He expects rapid growth as the implementation of OneWeb’s terminals will be so simple.
Wyler reiterated, “We’ve got a very clear mission and we are working our hardest to help people as fast as we can. 2019 will be a big year for us.”