Small town, big sky: OneWeb satellites connect to ground facility in Talkeetna

Getting internet to rural Alaska has always been a challenge, OneWeb aims to change that with Low Earth Orbit satellites and a ground facility in Talkeetna.
Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 2:14 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The small town of Talkeetna may not be the first place people think of as the vanguard for an emerging technology, but at the moment that is exactly what it is.

“It’s a fantastic feeling,” said Chuck Schumann, CEO of Pacific Dataport, adding, “It’s always been that Alaska would be at the tail end of whatever new technology was available and in this case Alaska is first.”

The new technology in question are the low Earth orbit satellites that the company OneWeb is planning to use to bring high-speed internet to Alaska and eventually to the entire world.

To make that happen, the satellites already in space and the few remaining that are set to launch later this summer will have to connect with ground facilities known as gateways.

Pacific Dataport, an Alaska-owned company, has signed an agreement with OneWeb to provide connectivity services in the state.

According to Joe Paciaroni, OneWeb’s director of ground infrastructure, the site in Talkeetna is the only gateway that will be needed for all of Alaska, but they do have others around the globe.

“We currently have about seven that are operational,” Paciaroni said. “We have about 10 more that are coming online this year, ultimately over 40 gateways around the world.”

A project of this size is a massive undertaking and, in this case, it actually requires multiple companies to execute.

While the satellites float through the low orbit of the earth, it is Microcom and Pacific Dataport — both based in Anchorage — that will handle the wholesale and retail components of the business in Alaska

Microcom owns and operates the Talkeetna Alaska Teleport that the OneWeb satellites will connect to.

The teleport, with it’s 29 satellite antennas, is now busy running tests, connecting with the existing satellites already in the sky and getting ready for a day sometime later this year when everything will go fully online.

Meanwhile, Alaskans in the most remote parts of the state wait, dreaming for a day when the switch is flipped and high-speed internet is available in places it never has been before.

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