Comparing OneWeb vs. Starlink will give us an insight into who is the better satellite internet provider. But let’s recap a little.
We are back to the space race, and this time it is technology giants fighting to be the first to provide high-speed internet globally using satellite constellations.
Of course, Starlink is the number one contender, but OneWeb is proving to be a worthy contender. So let’s analyze the two to find out which ISP is better.
Table of Contents
- OneWeb vs. Starlink: Brief History and Mission/Purpose
- OneWeb vs. Starlink: Satellite Constellation
- OneWeb vs. Starlink: Speeds
- OneWeb vs. Starlink: Availability
- OneWeb vs. Starlink: Prices
- OneWeb vs. Starlink: Partnership
- Wrap Up
OneWeb vs. Starlink: Brief History and Mission/Purpose
Although some still consider OneWeb a startup, the company is well past this phase.
Oneweb had a rough start and declared bankruptcy in 2020 after its primary investor, Japan’s Softbank, pulled funding.
However, the British company received help from closer home, with the British government and Bharti Global, an Indian telecom company, providing bailout money.
A communications satellite in orbit
Oneweb’s mission is to provide high-speed, low-latency internet to governments, businesses, phone network operators, defense/military, community clusters, aviation, land mobility, and maritime operators.
With this B2B model, the company does not target individual customers.
Starlink is a division of SpaceX, a space exploration company founded and headed by the visionary billionaire Elon Musk.
In fact, Starlink and OneWeb would have been one company because the founders (Elon Musk and Greg Wyler) worked together in 2014.
They wanted to launch WorldVu, a constellation of about 700 satellites, into LEO (Low-Earth Orbit).
A Starlink constellation in LEO
However, the collaboration broke down, and Elon Musk went on to register & license Starlink, while WorldVu became Oneweb.
Unlike Oneweb, Starlink’s mission is to build a satellite internet service to provide high-speed, low-latency internet to individual customers located everywhere around the globe (B2C model).
So the two companies operate in the same space but are not direct competitors.
OneWeb vs. Starlink: Satellite Constellation
Both companies wanted to provide fast satellite internet access, which was impossible using geostationary satellites that orbit over 35,000 km above the earth.
So the only solution was to position the satellites in LEO.
Although constellations from both companies operate in LEO, Oneweb’s satellites orbit at a higher altitude of about 1,200 km.
Also, the company plans to launch fewer space vehicles (648) and has about 584 satellites in orbit as of early March 2023. So only a few remain.
A cargo spacecraft in LEO
OneWeb intends to act as an internet backbone, so it needs a smaller satellite network to support other businesses that connect to the end consumer.
Also, each of Oneweb’s satellites weighs about 150 kg, more than 50 kilos lighter than the satellites Starlink currently launches into space.
Elon Musk’s internet satellites circle the earth at a lower altitude of about 550 km, which gives better connection speeds because they are closer to consumers.
Also, Starlink operates a larger constellation of satellites because it intends to cover the entire planet with high-speed internet from space.
A Starship in LEO
The company has over 3,580 space vehicles as of February 2023 and plans to launch 42,000 satellites into space to complete its constellation.
Each satellite weighs about 230-290 kg, making the rocket launch payload heavier.
OneWeb vs. Starlink: Speeds
This satellite internet company promises fiber-like download speeds, reaching 200 Mbps.
So far, the ISP has achieved internet speeds of about 165 Mbps with a latency of 45ms (2021 speed test).
The service had achieved faster speeds earlier, reaching 400 Mbps in 2019.
However, these satellites only transmit and receive in the Ku-band radio frequency.
A Ku-band antenna mounted on a roof
Starlink antennas have a broader frequency band coverage (Ka-, Ku-, and E-band).
With these channels, the satellite internet provider can reach up to 300 Mbps, but the actual speeds it ensures are 20-100 Mbps.
And it has a lower latency of 25-50ms.
However, Starlink Business customers can expect faster speeds of up to 350 Mbps, with the actual being 40-220 Mbps
OneWeb vs. Starlink: Availability
The Oneweb commercial satellite constellation will be complete by the end of March 2023, but engineers will need time to test the system.
So it should be available by the fourth quarter of 2023.
A starlink dish mounted on a roof
Starlink is way ahead and is already available in most of North America and Australia.
The service is also available in some areas of Europe, South America, and Asia.
But we should see more coverage in Africa, the US, Europe, and Asia by the end of 2023 as the company launches more satellites into orbit.
OneWeb vs. Starlink: Prices
Since Oneweb is not yet online, the company’s subscription plans and pricing options are unclear.
But with Starlink, you pay a one-time equipment fee of $599 to get the Dishy, gateway, and cabling.
After that, you’ll pay a $110 monthly subscription fee.
But there is a 30-day free trial period, so the first month is free, and you can cancel anytime during this window.
If you cancel, you can return the hardware for a full refund.
The new rectangular Starlink Dishy
Also, the service has no contract. So you can cancel anytime and expect zero early termination fees.
Starlink offers two other services: Roam and Business.
Roam requires either $599 for the portable hardware or $2,500 for the in-motion hardware, and you can pause/unpause the service as you wish.
The monthly payments are $150 (regional) or $200 (global).
But Business plan users pay a $2,500 one-time hardware fee and a $500 monthly premium. It is costly but gives faster speeds.
OneWeb vs. Starlink: Partnership
OneWeb initially had a launch contract with the Russian Space Agency to take its broadband satellites into orbit.
But the UK-government-backed company had to end its collaboration with Roscosmos after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
A rocket ready for launch to deliver a payload into space
The sanctions applied by the western countries on Russia also covered the space industry, and Russia replied with similar sanctions.
It scrapped the deal, demanded that the UK government sell its stake in OneWeb, and asked Britain to swear to non-military use of the constellation.
Off course, the UK ignored Roscosmos.
So Oneweb contracted SpaceX to launch the remainder of the space vehicles into orbit.
As you can see, Starlink and OneWeb are not direct competitors because their niche markets are different.
The former targets individual customers in a B2C model, while the latter targets businesses in a B2B model.
But we’ll have to wait for Oneweb to come fully online to see how its service performs and how it prices its subscription packages.
This factor will determine which internet commercial service is better. Currently, Starlink wins due to availability and reliability.