OneWeb signs Airbus for military and government services contract – PaxEx.Aero

Airbus will distribute connectivity services from the OneWeb constellation of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites for military and government customers. The distribution agreement signed this week allows Airbus to add LEO capability to its existing portfolio of options for certain European and UK armed forces, as well as civil protection and security forces, from the end of 2021.

With the OneWeb LEO constellation, we can offer military customers real flexibility as we seek to deliver the future integrated mesh networks, combat the cloud and information superiority that demand these new and innovative approaches. –

Evert Dudok, Executive Vice President of Connected Intelligence at Airbus Defense and Space

As with any satellite operation, achieving profitability means filling capacity from a variety of sources. The scale of demand from European defense and security agencies around the world will help OneWeb achieve this goal.

The duo plans to develop a “complete offer of secure services dedicated to the specific needs of armies for all their land, sea and air operations”. This includes the next generation of terminals and antennas, bringing more devices to the all-IP network. Customers can prioritize communication flows as they do today on terrestrial networks, but with the advantage of a near-global footprint.

OneWeb CEO Neil Masterson notes that the service will launch in the Arctic — the network is currently available north of the 50th parallel — before expanding to global use cases.

As a managed service of Airbus, the new communications will complement existing services and networks. This includes the ability to switch between LEO and GEO (geostationary orbit) satellite communications throughout operations to take advantage of a flexible and interoperable network.

OneWeb’s vice president of mobility, Ben Griffin, suggested earlier this year that interoperability was a compelling facet of the network as the company seeks to attract commercial airline customers to the constellation:

Coming out of the pandemic and putting all your chips on an unknown horse is probably risky. We therefore see it as a way of diluting this risk of [the airline’s] perspective and facilitate our entry into the market. But as far as we are concerned, LEO-only is more than capable, [delivering] many more abilities and possibilities than anyone will ever need.

And once people get used to it and passengers and their apps are firing on all cylinders across the OneWeb LEO network, I expect [GEO dependence] decrease over time. It’s a bit like a baby dropping the pacifier. It’s that comfort blanket. They’re like, ‘Yeah, I want to like it but I’m not quite ready to bet my house on it.’

Over the summer, Griffin elaborated on this idea, noting that even with the LEO constellation online “we’re not going to expect everyone to ground planes, rip up the GEO kit and put on our own.” In the second half of the decade, however, Griffin was “quite confident of good adoption of LEO services”, with the new constellations supporting the majority of aviation-related traffic.

The fact that the Airbus/OneWeb partnership includes support for in-flight aircraft only demonstrates this functionality for the commercial segment.

A favor to ask while you’re here…

Did you enjoy the content? Or learn something useful? Or do you just think this is the type of story you’d like to see more of? To consider support the site with a donation (any amount counts). It helps me stay independent and avoid credit card blocking.

Ashley C. Reynolds