Virgin and Qualcomm have become initial investors in plans to build and operate a satellite constellation that will bring internet access to locations around the world.
OneWeb, founded as WorldVu, aims to bring high-speed internet and telephony to areas currently lacking access, using a 648-strong fleet of micro-satellites. The OneWeb system will expand mobile networks, allowing coverage to remote areas that have not been economically viable to connect terrestrially.
The investment from the two multinationals will help fund the development and launch of the satellites, although OneWeb hopes to get other investors on board. Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson and Qualcomm Executive Chairman Dr. Paul Jacobs will sit on the board of directors alongside Greg Wyler, the founder of OneWeb.
Since both companies are active in the telecoms sphere, they will of course see lucrative opportunities to grow their business with an expansion of the internet market.
Branson commented in his blog: "According to the International Telecommunications Union, as of the end of 2014, more than half the world’s population lacks internet access – this new satellite constellation could dramatically improve that figure, bringing fresh opportunities to the billions of people who are currently held back by a lack of technology."
Projects to bring internet access to underserved areas have been on the cards for a while, with 2013 seeing the founding of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s internet.org project.