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Taiwan Seeks Broader Satellite Coverage Through UK’s OneWeb Amid Increasing Focus on Digital Resilience

In a recent visit to the United Kingdom, Taiwan’s Minister for Digital Development, Tang Feng, took part in several high-profile events, including London’s Science and Technology Week and the Artificial Intelligence Summit. Her visit also included discussions with OneWeb, a satellite communications firm backed by the UK government, to extend the company’s low-orbit satellite network coverage to all of Taiwan.

The visit came at the invitation of Natalie Black, the UK’s Minister of Trade for the Asia-Pacific region. Minister Tang was not only a participant in various conferences, such as the London Technology Week and AI Summit, but also a speaker addressing technology development challenges faced by various countries. In addition, she visited OneWeb’s headquarters in London.

During her meetings, Tang brought up Taiwan’s ongoing initiatives, like the “emerging technologies application in contingency or wartime scenarios to strengthen the digital resilience of communication networks”. This includes projects like the non-geostationary orbit satellite backup networks.

Founded in 2012, OneWeb ranks second only to SpaceX in the number of low-orbit satellites launched. From 2020 onwards, it has dispatched more than 629 satellites, thus becoming the second-largest low-orbit satellite network service provider globally, following Starlink.

Tang noted that while OneWeb’s current satellite coverage encompasses northern Taiwan, it’s expected to extend to the entirety of Taiwan by year’s end. Consequently, if OneWeb joins the Taiwan verification plan, it could, in conjunction with Starlink (with whom negotiations are ongoing), provide Taiwan with robust low-orbit satellite network services. This would ensure Taiwan’s ability to maintain external network connections even during times of conflict.

With the UK government and India’s Bharti Enterprises being primary investors in OneWeb, holding nearly 53% of its shares, the UK government plays a pivotal role in ensuring continuous provision of Taiwan’s low-orbit satellite services by OneWeb. This arrangement could provide a fallback option for Taiwan, beyond Starlink, mitigating risks associated with corporate decisions, such as those witnessed during the Ukraine-Russian conflict, when Musk’s attitude towards Ukraine’s Starlink service supply fluctuated.

Minister Tang also emphasized that the Digital Development Department is not biased towards specific manufacturers but will aim to test a wide range of mid-orbit and low-orbit satellite technologies. She assured that all network technologies, in the future, would be overseen by the Digital Department in collaboration with partner companies, rather than being delivered as a business model to the public or manufacturers directly.

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