The deal will see the low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite communications company provide connectivity across Orange’s international footprint

Today, Orange has announced a new partnership with UK-based LEO satellite player OneWeb, seeking to use the burgeoning constellation to provide front- and backhaul connectivity to customers in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.

The operator says the deal will allow them to extend connectivity services to customers in hard-to-reach areas, particularly in cases where reaching the customer with traditional terrestrial connectivity would be impractical or prohibitively expensive.

The satellite constellation will also serve to bolster Orange’s existing network, providing additional resilience and backhaul capacity.

“At Orange, we believe that satellite is a promising and complementary technology showcasing many recent innovations that will benefit enterprises all around the word and will accelerate the digital inclusion of populations within our subsidiaries in Africa and the Middle East,” said Jean-Louis Le Roux, Executive Vice President, of Orange International Networks Infrastructures & Services. “We are therefore delighted to partner with OneWeb as it will allow us to continue deploying high quality networks in all underserved parts of the world.”

With this deal, Orange becomes the latest in a growing list of major operator clients for OneWeb, with the UK satellite operator having already scored similar deals with AT&T, BT, Telefonica, Bharti Airtel, and others.

Orange currently offers telecoms services in 26 countries, over half of which are in Africa, a market where almost a billion people remain unconnected to the internet.

However, OneWeb’s services will not be available in all of Orange’s markets immediately. Following the company’s latest launch in January this year, OneWeb will soon have 542 satellites in orbit, with the constellation already able to provide services to Alaska, Canada, the UK, Greenland, and the wider Arctic area.

The latest batch of 40 satellites, which take around 100 days to reach orbit and become operational, will increase this reach to Southern Europe, the US, North Africa, the Middle East, Japan, Australia, and India.

To achieve global coverage, the OneWeb says it will require 588 satellites, a feat that will be achieved after the next batch of satellites is launched later this year.

An additional 60 satellites will also be constructed to provide a mix of in-orbit and ground spares, bringing the OneWeb constellation’s final number to 648.

Somewhat ironically, these launches are being facilitated by OneWeb’s rival, SpaceX, after the company lost access to Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft as a result of Russian’s invasion of Ukraine last year.

SpaceX’s own LEO constellation, Starlink, already has over 3,580 devices in orbit.

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