Richard Branson the head of Virgin, has said that his company is joining up with Qualcomm in order to put thousands of Internet satellites into orbit to offer Web access to remote locations on the planet, which currently don’t have Internet access. The idea of providing Internet access globally is not new. You probably have heard of the  Facebook and Google Projects that are also working towards a similar goals.

To ensure that the project will actually happen, both the companies will be putting large sums of money into satellite Internet firm OneWeb Ltd. The firm maybe known by its former name of WorldVu Satellites.

Branson informed CNBC on Thursday of last week, “We plan to put an initial array of 648 satellites up, and if that’s successful, we want to go to 2,400 satellites…The idea is to reach the billions of people who don’t have Internet access and to do so with good quality reception and good prices.”

The International Telecommunications Union has said more than 50% of the world’s population is currently without Internet access. OneWeb said in a release that the venture will include the initial array of nearly 650 micro satellites that are intended to provide “low-latency, high-speed Internet access directly to small user terminals deployed around the world,” The scheme is designed to connect “rural and remote areas” using the satellites.

These satellites are estimated to cost around $350,000 each to construct. The satellites will be put into orbit by Virgin Galactic’s (under-construction) orbital launch vehicle, LauncherOne. This is a method which Branson says will be highly cost effective. “It’s much more efficient than the big rockets of the past,” he said. “We can literally take off every three or four hours.” This news comes with speculation that OneWeb may work with Elon Musk’s SpaceX company on the production of the satellites.

In the meantime, it appears as though the race is on to be the first to succeed with sky-based, plan-t wide broadband initiatives. On the one hand we have Facebook looking to send drones into orbit to bring Web access to the people, whilst on the other hand Google is focussing on high-altitude balloons and satellites to achieve the same.

[Image via pcmag]