OneWeb vs Starlink
OneWeb vs Starlink is hardly a David vs Goliath battle; both private satellite broadband companies have their own interests and objectives and are strong contenders in the broadband space race.
Before covering how they stack up against each other, this article will provide a comprehensive and impartial account of both companies, allowing you to make an informed decision before investing in the next generation of connectivity.
Both broadband companies have already installed a network of hundreds of satellites in low Earth orbit to make space-based connectivity an affordable reality. At face value, the two organisations seem similar; under the surface, there are significant differences in how they operate and cater to the needs of their customers. The differences are so substantial that neither company sees the other as their rival, even if they are being lauded as two of the most pioneering companies of this generation.
Since 2012, OneWeb has made all the right pioneering moves from its headquarters in London. The broadband satellite organisation was built with the sole objective of providing international fibreoptic networks where they don’t already exist. Along the way, under the direction of the company CEO, Neil Masterson, OneWeb has attracted a series of high-profile clients and investors.
The UK government has utilised the services of OneWeb; the company has also drawn support from Bharti Global, a reputable Indian telecom company, and the SoftBank Group, a high-profile Japanese investment group.
Even though OneWeb may be painted as an underdog next to Starlink, as everything Elon Musk does draws plenty of publicity, this is far from the case.
The infamous billionaire Elon Musk, who appears to have his fingers in all the future-ready pies, started implanting satellites into low Earth orbit in 2019 as an extension of his work with his space exploration company, SpaceX.
A “mega constellation” of satellites is already circling Earth to ensure that lightning-fast connectivity is possible in every location at an equally accessible cost. To hurtle the Starlink satellites in space, SpaceX used their Falcon 9 rockets to dot them around Earth’s orbit. As of today, Starlink is helping over 30 countries to stay connected.
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OneWeb vs Starlink: Which Company Comes Out on Top?
To assess which satellite broadband company comes out on top, it is important to consider the purpose of the organisations, how they have created a space-based satellite network, and most importantly for customers and clients, the capabilities of their solutions.
The Purpose and Goals of OneWeb & Starlink
Even though OneWeb and Starlink are frequently pitted against each other, they are far from Coke and Pepsi rivals. In fact, the two organisations have collaborated in the past; OneWeb utilised SpaceX rockets to launch over 40 of their satellites into Earth’s orbit.
The differing target audiences, philosophies, and objectives of the two companies are three of the main reasons that OneWeb vs Starlink isn’t a viable fight or conflict of interest:
- OneWeb’s mission is to cater to businesses and appeal to commercial audiences. Domestic consumers can only access their satellite broadband via secondary businesses.
- Starlink’s objective is to provide fast and secure internet access to everyone; including businesses; however, the primary focus is domestic customers, especially in rural areas and locations with poor broadband infrastructure.
OneWeb vs Starlink Tech Specs
No comparison of OneWeb and Starlink would be complete without an overview of the technical specifications.
Firstly, there is a distinct difference in how far the OneWeb and Starlink satellites are from Earth; Starlink’s satellites are 340 miles away from Earth, whereas OneWeb’s are 746 miles away. As the traditional satellites that allow us to stay connected are much further away, 22,369 miles away to be exact, both offer faster connection.
The distance of the satellites also affects the latency, which is how long data travels from one location to another. By general standards, an acceptable latency speed is 40 – 60 milliseconds or lower; higher latency can result in audio and video being out of sync while streaming and slow page loading speeds.
During field tests, Starlink’s latency was 40 – 50 milliseconds, and OneWeb’s latency was 32 milliseconds, on average, which provides an internet speed of 400Mbps.
OneWeb and Starlink Constellation Details
While the constellation details of each satellite broadband network don’t have too much bearing on the quality of the service from OneWeb and Starlink, respectively, they create some of the most significant differences between the two organisations.
One advantage Starlink has over OneWeb is that Starlink can use its parent company’s rockets to launch satellites into orbit. Prior to the war between Russia and Ukraine, OneWeb was using the Russian company, Roscosmos to launch its rockets. However, since the conflict started, OneWeb has refrained from using the Russian space agency and started to use SpaceX rockets instead.
At the time of writing, Starlink has more than 4,000 fully functional satellites in space. The Starlink fleet dwarfs the OneWeb fleet in comparison; as of June 2023, OneWeb has 648 satellites in Lower Earth Orbit.
Starlink is far from its desired broadband satellite fleet size of 42,000. OneWeb also has plenty of work to do to reach its desired fleet size of 7,000; 7,000 satellites is the minimum required if the UK-based company wants to provide global coverage.
Even though Starlink’s progress may seem greater – especially as the company was founded by Elon Musk five years after OneWeb became set out to change the capacity of connectivity – it is important to remember that both companies are on track to achieve their objectives.
OneWeb vs Starlink: The Conclusion
Given the stark difference in the objectives of OneWeb and Starlink, there is little to gain by playing them off against each other. For businesses in locations where there is existing coverage, OneWeb is the clear frontrunner. For domestic users looking for a better alternative to traditional broadband due to living in rural areas with slow broadband speeds, Starlink is the obvious choice.
As the two companies evolve, there may come a time when they start to rival each other. However, as things currently stand, the supposed competition and prolific comparisons only push both companies in the broadband space race forward.