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The Next Space Race - Innovating The Internet

Who will win out of Virgin and Google in the next space race?

22Jan

Last week it was announced that Virgin and Qualcomm had invested in OneWeb Ltd, a company whose aim is to deliver a fast and reliable internet service to those who aren't currently online. Led by Greg Wyler, OneWeb Ltd also want to deliver the internet to airlines and help the third-world catch up with their online capabilities.

Wyler has yet to come out with the exact total that Virgin and Qualcomm invested, but with the project estimated to cost between $1.5 billion and $2 billion, there's no doubt that both companies are investing serious capital in the venture. Virgin's interest in the project is obvious, not only will their airline business profit from connected planes, but as a mobile operator they would also be able to resell OneWeb's service, although this isn't yet set in stone.

Internet giant, Google, were hardly likely to let an opportunity like this slip through their hands, so it's no surprise that they've also got in on the act. Google and Fidelity recently pumped $1 billion into SpaceX, the spacecraft manufacturer, run by Elon Musk, with similar aspirations of making sure that the entire world has a reliable internet connection.

This has sparked many media outlets to dub this 'the new space race' - a race between Google and Virgin to see who can control satellite space. Throw into the mix that Greg Wyler, head of Virgin backed OneWeb Ltd used to work for Google before leaving to set up his company, and this has the making of an almightily expensive tussle.

As recent as last week there was actually a rumour that SpaceX and OneWeb Ltd could actually be partners. Elon Musk announced on Bloomberg that SpaceX were building a satellite manufacturing plant, with the Wall Street Journal suggesting that they would join forces with OneWeb to start the construction of their satellites.

Elon Musk denounced this claim, dismissing it as hearsay. These words came to fruition on the 19th January, with Musk confirming that SpaceX would not be partnering with OneWeb Ltd. With this in mind, it's more than possible that we could have a real battle on our hands to gain momentum in a field which will undoubtedly come to reshape the way the world uses the internet. There's no telling how long this race will last, but it will be fascinating to see how this develops throughout 2015.

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