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Russia denies OneWeb permission to operate in Russia

Russian government agencies this week denied permission to OneWeb to operate and provide internet services within Russia, even though Russia is launching a large bulk of OneWeb’s satellite constellation.

One agency denied them permission to use certain radio frequencies. Another has said no because it claims the satellites could be used for espionage. The first denial, in 2017, came from Roscosmos, which is also the agency launching OneWeb’s satellites.

The latest refusal of OneWeb was a sign that the country’s authorities remain keen to continue tightening their control of internet access, said Prof Christopher Newman at Northumbria University.

“[Satellite internet] presents an existential strategic threat to their trying to limit internet activity within their boundaries,” he told the BBC. “There are going to be large swathes of Russian territory… that are going to become very dependent on internet from space.”

Russia continues its sad slide back to Soviet-style authoritarianism and poverty.

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7 comments

  • pzatchok

    Exactly how will they regulate One Web while they fly over Russia?

    Will they just refuse them the ability to sell transceivers in Russia? More than likely.

    Or require them to shut down while over Russia? Low chance since One Web will also be servicing all nations around Russia.

    In the end all they will do is create a black market for OneWeb Devices.

  • I don’t see how OneWeb will be able to compete with StarLink. Launching many more satellites on the partially-reusable F9 will make StarLink so much cheaper and more capable than OneWeb.

  • Dick Eagleson

    It’s worse than just a cost disadvantage – bad as that is. Wyler deliberately crippled his network by building sats with no cross-links and, therefore, no routing capability. On-orbit routing allows an end-run around national-level Web censorship. Neither Russia nor China would permit a system with on-orbit routing they didn’t control to operate in their national territories. At the same time, the U.S. DoD would not be a potential customer for such a network and neither, one imagines would any other military who didn’t want the Russians and/or Chinese able to control, or shut off, their network access.

    So Wyler decided to cast his lot with the totalitarians. And now the Russians – having already arranged to own 49% of any OneWeb Russian operation – have decided OneWeb’s services are simply not required after all. Given that the Chinese already plan to field their own broadband Internet constellation, it would come as no shock if the Chinese also elect to stiff-arm Wyler.

    If this happens, Wyler looks to be royally screwed. The entire First World and Third World will have access to the better and cheaper Starlink, with Kuiper also on the way. So who will need OneWeb?

    Whom the gods would destroy and all that.

  • John E Bowen

    I think Doug is right about Starlink from SpaceX being potentially cheaper, and if not Starlink, then another service from another competitor. This will be a competitive and interesting market soon.

    It’s obvious why Russian authorities don’t want OneWeb. It allows a little more freedom, considered a feature to most of us, but a bug to some.

    Which space-broadband offering promotes the most freedom is an interesting question. It’s my understanding that some designs rely more on extensive use of ground stations spread out all over the world. Other designs carry the end-user traffic more fully from satellite to satellite. This means that once the originating ground station, located in, say, US, UK or anywhere with free media, transmits some data to a Starlink node overhead, it bounces among other nodes until beamed down to an end-user with one of those pizza box sized transceivers.

    I’m not explaining this perfectly, but the point is, one might expect a few very small antenna smuggled into Russia, China, NK, wherever. A traditional big ground support antenna, next to its support building(s) and power conditioning, is too big to hide. So, some kinds of space based Internet are good for everyone, others are more easily controlled and thus more friendly to authoritarian regimes.

    This “freedom bonus” is a side effect, though. Which offerings succeed will be determined by the market.

  • John E Bowen

    Ah, I see Dick just made my point before I could hit Send. And better than I made it. :) On-orbit routing is the term I was looking for.

  • John E Bowen

    So, I have no information on this, at all, but here’s a wild guess.

    In just a few years, the Tesla vehicles produced in China will not have the option for a Starlink receiver. An American business person relocating to China for a couple of years, and bring their Tesla with them (I know, it’s expensive, but people do it, sometimes) would have the car inspected, and any Starlink receivers removed or disabled.

    Does this sound about right?

  • Dick Eagleson

    Let’s just say I wouldn’t be shocked if that happened.

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