AT&T taps OneWeb to extend enterprise broadband beyond fiber’s reach

Oneweb satellite
OneWeb’s in-orbit constellation tallied 288 satellites as of August. (Roscosmos, Space Center Vostochny, TsENKI)

AT&T became the latest operator to look to the sky to extend the reach of its broadband network, teaming with OneWeb to serve enterprise and government customers in remote locations outside of its fiber footprint.

John Wojewoda, AT&T AVP, told Fierce that while it’s still early days, OneWeb’s service is expected to provide speeds of nearly 200 Mbps. In addition to serving up broadband for enterprise and government customers in hard-to-reach locations, he said AT&T can also use this connectivity for cell site backhaul where direct fiber isn’t available. It can also potentially be used for disaster recovery solutions, he added.

The executive said AT&T could also explore the use of OneWeb’s service to provide residential broadband in future, but is not pursuing that option at this time.

AT&T noted in a press release that while more than 9 million business customer locations are within 1,000 feet of its fiber network, there are still plenty of remote areas that remain beyond its reach.

Asked about why it decided to partner with OneWeb, Wojewoda said AT&T explored a range of options but landed on OneWeb as the company with the “business model that made sense to work with AT&T.” He added “this is a tool in the toolbox…this doesn’t necessarily fully displace other options, it can be used to complement them.”

“We are out there serving customers with diverse connectivity requirements. And being able to provide that connectivity anywhere that they are, it’s critical to AT&T’s value that we’re delivering them. So this will provide more flexibility to serve those large customer needs in places that are either very difficult or expernsive to serve today,” Wojewoda said.

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OneWeb’s in-orbit constellation tallied 288 satellites as of August. It expects to begin delivering connectivity above the 50th parallel by the end of this year and plans to grow its constellation to 648 satellites by the end of 2022.

In recent months the satellite operator teamed with U.K. operator BT and Canadian player Northwestel to explore rural broadband use cases and inked distribution partnerships with Alaska Communications, Pacific Dataport and ROCK Communications.

Last month, OneWeb secured a $300 million investment from South Korea’s Hanwha Systems, raising its total funding to $2.7 billion – enough to complete its planned network.