OneWeb receives investment from Eutelsat Communications; LEO satellite constellation for global internet service
OneWeb, the satellite communications network provider [1.], announced today that it has secured $550 million in funding from Eutelsat Communications (one of the world’s leading satellite operators). That brings OneWeb’s total funding to $1.9 billion in fresh equity since it emerged from bankruptcy.
Note 1. OneWeb is a global communications network powered by a constellation of 650 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites. Headquartered in London, OneWeb is enabling high-speed, low latency connectivity for governments, businesses, and communities everywhere around the world. OneWeb’s satellites, together with a network of global gateway stations and a range of User Terminals, will provide an affordable, fast, high bandwidth, low-latency communications service connected to the IoT future, and a pathway to 5G for everyone, everywhere.
This investment is a vote of confidence in OneWeb and underscores the arrival of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites into mainstream long-term growth planning for major operators.
OneWeb’s 648 LEO satellite fleet will deliver high-speed, low-latency global connectivity. It’s partnership with Eutelsat, a global geostationary satellite operator, will enhance both companies’ commercial potential, leveraging Eutelsat’s established commercial reach to governments and enterprise customers in addition to its strong institutional relationships, recognized technical expertise and global fleet.
OneWeb’s ability to address multiple applications requiring low latency and ubiquity will also allow both companies to explore GEO/LEO configurations for future service integrations and packages.
OneWeb’s mission is to deliver broadband connectivity worldwide to its customers, to bridge the global digital divide by offering data connectivity, facilitating linkage to the Internet of Things (IoT) future and a pathway to 5G. OneWeb’s LEO satellite system includes a network of global gateway stations and a range of user terminals for different customer markets capable of delivering affordable, fast, high-bandwidth and low-latency communications services.
Yesterday, OneWeb successfully launched another 36 satellites into its constellation bringing the system to 182 satellites. The company has only two more launches left in its ‘Five to 50’ programme that will cement the company’s ability to start connectivity services to the United Kingdom, Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, the Artic Seas and Canada, with global service available next year.
After OneWeb completes the full deployment of the constellation, the company anticipates annual revenues of approximately $1 billion in year three or soon thereafter, thanks to its partnership driven, wholesale business plan.
OneWeb Mini-satellite Constellation for Global Internet Service
Sunil Bharti Mittal, Founder and Chairman of Bharti Enterprises said: “We are delighted to welcome Eutelsat into the OneWeb family.
“As an open multi-national business, we are committed to serving the global needs of governments, businesses and communities across the world. Together we are stronger, benefitting from the entrepreneurial energy of Bharti, the extensive global outreach of the UK Government and the expertise in the satellite industry at Eutelsat. OneWeb, with its innovative and disruptive approach, is poised to take a leading position in LEO broadband connectivity.”
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Today’s investment is another giant leap forward for OneWeb in realising their ambition to provide global broadband connectivity around the globe.
“Eutelsat brings over forty years of experience in the global satellite industry and this exciting new partnership puts OneWeb on a strong commercial footing, and the UK at the forefront of the latest developments in low Earth orbit technology.
“This comes alongside yesterday’s exciting news that a further 36 satellites were launched into space and demonstrates the momentum behind OneWeb and the promising efforts to provide connectivity to some of the world’s most remote places.”
Neil Masterson, Chief Executive Officer of OneWeb, said: “We are delighted with the investment from Eutelsat, which validates our strategy, technology and commercial approach. We now have 80% of the necessary financing for the Gen 1 fleet, of which nearly 30% is already in space. Eutelsat’s global distribution network advances the market entry opportunities for OneWeb and we look forward to working together to capitalise on the growth opportunity and accelerate the pace of execution.”
Commenting on the agreement, Rodolphe Belmer, Eutelsat’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are excited to become a shareholder and partner in OneWeb in the run up to its commercial launch later in the year and to participate in the substantial opportunity represented by the LEO segment within our industry. We are confident in OneWeb’s right-to-win thanks to its earliness to market, priority spectrum rights and evolving, scalable technology. With over 40 years’ expertise in the global satellite industry, we look forward to working alongside the UK Government, Bharti and the other shareholders to open new opportunities and market access to ensure OneWeb maximizes its potential.”
- OneWeb, based in the UK, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy at the end of March 2020 after failing to secure $2 billion financing from lead shareholder SoftBank.
- In January, Japan’s SoftBank Group and Hughes Network Systems LLC had invested $400 million in OneWeb.
- The UK government and Bharti Global invested $500 million each to acquire OneWeb under a bankruptcy resolution process.
- OneWeb plans to start high-speed internet services in India by mid-2022.
- In November, Mittal told Mint that OneWeb will boost rural broadband connectivity in India and other developing countries, including those in Africa.
- For 5G wireless service, satellite network could play an important role as it will reach areas where fiber and radio airwaves cannot penetrate. However, there are no standards for satellite based 5G networks (IMT 2020 and 3GPP specs are for terrestrial wireless operation).
- Also, the cost of using a satellite network is the highest among the three mediums, and thus, fiber and terrestrial wireless spectrum will be the preferred modes of transmission of data wherever they will be available, he added.
2 thoughts on “OneWeb receives investment from Eutelsat Communications; LEO satellite constellation for global internet service”
Great summary, Alan. It will be interesting to see how OneWeb’s global internet service evolves, particularly with competition from other satellite internet providers. It will be interesting to see if their solutions will also serve as backhaul for terrestrial systems where there aren’t good backbones.
OneWeb said it has two more launches left in its “Five to 50” program, after which it will be able to start offering connectivity services to the UK, Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, the Arctic Seas and Canada, “with global service available next year.”
Competition is heating up:
Elon Musk’s Starlink is a further strong contender and is already signing up users directly in the US, UK and Canada. The SpaceX-owned company launched another 60 satellites in April following a number of launches in March.
Furthermore, the Federal Communications Commission has just approved SpaceX’s proposed modification of its Starlink license, enabling it to move upcoming satellites to an altitude of under 570 km.
According to reports, opponents including Amazon and Viasat had filed numerous responses to the proposed modification, saying it would cause interference with other satellite networks.
SpaceNews explained that SpaceX will be able to move 2,814 satellites from orbits in the range of 1,100 – 1,300 km, to 540 – 570 km.
“That is the same orbital range that the company is using for its current constellation of about 1,350 satellites in operation today,” the website said.
The proliferation of satellites in orbit has already caused a spat between OneWeb and SpaceX over a near collision, although SpaceX later asserted that there had in fact been no “close call” or “near miss.”
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