Greg Wyler- OneWeb Satellite-Internet CEO- Telecom Man of the Year + $500M more from Softbank

Greg Wyler, the entrepreneur and CEO of satellite internet company OneWeb, has won the Fierce Wireless “Most Powerful Person In Telecom” tournament for 2017, just edging past T-Mobile CEO John Legere during this weekend’s final matchup and beating other industry notables like Ericsson’s Borje Ekholm, Apple’s Tim Cook and Verizon’s Lowell McAdam.

This past  Sunday afternoon, Legere urged his almost 5 million Twitter followers to vote for OneWeb’s Wyler instead of himself:

Join me in voting for Greg as the Most Powerful Person in Wireless! We have until tomorrow morning to put Greg_Wyler (and his mission) on top, where he belongs! https://www.fiercewireless.com/wireless/john-legere-vs-greg-wyler-vote-for-most-powerful-person-u-s-telecom-industry-2017 

“This has been an amazing public statement about the need for global connectivity. Our mission is to enable affordable access for the world’s unconnected. While we still have a lot of work to do, with the support of partners, friends, governments, and customers, I know we will get there,” Wyler said in a statement issued shortly before voting ended on Tuesday morning.

OneWeb appears to have recently received another vote of confidence from Japan’s SoftBank. According to a Wall Street Journal report, SoftBank has increased its investment in OneWeb by another $500 million, bringing its total to $1.5 billion.

Wyler also told the WSJ that the company’s initial fleet of more than 700 low-altitude satellites is “generally on schedule” for launches beginning in 2018. The company plans to start offering service in Alaska by 2019 and expanding worldwide by the end of 2020, Wyler told the Journal. Further, he said that OneWeb plans to deploy 900 second-generation, higher-orbiting satellites by the mid-2020s, which he said would allow the company to offer speeds of 2.5 Gbps.

Mr. Wyler’s project has final approval from the Federal Communications Commission to turn on domestic service within two years, barring major technical or manufacturing problems. The approval also is contingent on other conditions.

According to Mr. Wyler, his team also is “trying to lead the charge” in reducing orbital debris stemming from potential satellite collisions or failures. OneWeb’s satellites, weighing hundreds of pounds and expected to cost less than $1 million apiece, are designed to be “as high or higher in quality and reliability” than much larger models costing $150 million or more, he said.

An early financial backer of some of the largest internet companies on both sides of the Pacific, SoftBank continues to seek synergies with mobile-phone businesses and the portfolio of assorted technology companies it has assembled over the years. SoftBank also has created the world’s biggest tech investment fund, worth nearly $100 billion. The Vision Fund has been roiling the venture community with its sheer scale, lifting valuations and helping entrepreneurs bypass usual fundraising rounds.

Since its official launch in May with the backing of investors such as Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund, the fund has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in companies that SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son believes will corner key technologies in a future of smarter, interconnected, and automated devices. OneWeb’s satellites are geared to help serve as the backbone for those applications, Mr. Son has said.

SoftBank, which has a 40% stake in OneWeb based on a prior investmentwalked away from merger talks between its U.S. wireless carrierSprint Corp. and rival T-Mobile US Inc., unwilling to relinquish control as the top shareholder of a spectrum Mr. Son believes will be valuable as everyday objects from cars to refrigerators increasingly communicate with one another.

Mr. Wyler, for his part, has long advocated the advantages of combining satellites circling the earth at different altitudes, arguing such synergies dramatically increase capacity and efficiencies. But unlike Mr. Musk’s concept, he doesn’t favor laser links between satellites on the grounds that such add-ons unduly increase weight and complexity.

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 Conclusions:

According to Fierce’s readership, Wyler is not only the industry’s top rising starfor 2017, he’s also the industry’s most powerful person. And that comes after Softbank reportedly  invested another $500M in One Web- his satellite Internet start-up company!

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