OneWeb, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communications company that’s emerged from bankruptcy is jointly owned by the UK Government and Bharti Global. The company today announced that it has secured additional funding from SoftBank Group Corp. (“SoftBank”) and Hughes Network Systems LLC (“Hughes”), bringing OneWeb’s total funding to $1.4 billion. The capital raised to date positions the Company to be fully funded for its first-generation satellite fleet, totaling 648 satellites, by the end of 2022.
Prior to the latest funding round, the UK government and Bharti Global held 42.2% stake, respectively in OneWeb with other partners holding the balance 15.6%. “The capital raised to date positions the company to be fully funded for its first-generation satellite fleet, totaling 648 satellites, by the end of 2022,” as per a statement released by OneWeb.
Currently, satellite internet is a great option for residents of rural or suburban areas. Along with basically unlimited availability, satellite internet also offers Wi-Fi connectivity and speeds fast enough for streaming services. In addition to OneWeb, Starlink/SpaceX, Kuiper/Amazon, Boeing and Telesat are investing heavily into LEO satellites, aiming to launch thousands of low-orbiting satellites in coming years.
OneWeb’s mission is to deliver broadband connectivity worldwide to bridge the global Digital Divide by offering everyone, everywhere access including 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. In December 2020, OneWeb launched 36 new satellites, built at its Airbus Joint Venture assembly plant in Florida, USA, bringing the Company’s total fleet to 110 satellites, all fully-functioning and benefitting from International Telecommunication Union spectrum priority.
Sunil Bharti Mittal, Executive Chairman of OneWeb, commented, “We are delighted to welcome the investment from SoftBank and Hughes. Both are deeply familiar with our business, share our vision for the future, and their commitment allows us to capitalise on the significant growth opportunity ahead for OneWeb. We gain from their experience and capabilities, as we deliver a unique LEO network for the world.”
Secretary of State, BEIS, The Rt. Hon. Kwasi Kwarteng, MP said: “Our investment in OneWeb is part of our continued commitment to the UK’s space sector, putting Britain at the forefront of the latest technological advances. Today’s investment brings the company one step closer to delivering its mission to provide global broadband connectivity for people, businesses and governments, while potentially unlocking new research, development and manufacturing opportunities in the UK.”
Masayoshi Son, Representative Director, Corporate Officer, Chairman & CEO of SoftBank, said, “We are excited to support OneWeb as it increases capacity and accelerates towards commercialisation. We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Bharti, the UK Government and Hughes to help OneWeb deliver on its mission to transform internet access around the world.”
Pradman Kaul, President of Hughes, remarked, “OneWeb continues to inspire the industry and attract the best players in the business to come together to bring its LEO constellation to fruition. The investments made today by Hughes and SoftBank will help realise the full potential of OneWeb in connecting enterprise, government and mobility customers, especially with multi-transport services that complement our own geostationary offerings in meeting and accelerating demand for broadband around the world.”
Neil Masterson, CEO of OneWeb, added “OneWeb’s mission is to connect everyone, everywhere. We have made rapid progress to re-start the business since emerging from Chapter 11 in November. We welcome the investments by SoftBank and Hughes as further proof of progress towards delivering our goal.”
In connection with the investment, SoftBank will gain a seat on the OneWeb Board of Directors. Hughes is an investor through its parent company EchoStar, and also an ecosystem partner, developing essential ground network technology for the OneWeb system.
Additionally, OneWeb has reduced its request for US market access from 47,884 to 6,372 satellites. Together with the satellites for which it is already licensed by the FCC, the total constellation size will be roughly 7,000, down from the 48,000 or so proposed last year.
According to the company, this solidification of their constellation demonstrates the commitment and vision of OneWeb’s new owners, the UK Government and Bharti Global, who are dedicated to deploying a cost effective, responsible, and groundbreaking satellite network to deliver global broadband.
The firm stated that OneWeb remains focused on launching its first-generation system of 648 satellites and is on track to start regional commercial services within a year. This streamlining of activities highlights OneWeb’s plan for global connectivity services and for future generations and possibilities for the network.
OneWeb is a global communications network powered from space, headquartered in London, enabling connectivity for governments, businesses, and communities. It is implementing a constellation of Low Earth Orbit satellites with a network of global gateway stations and a range of user terminals to provide an affordable, fast, high-bandwidth and low-latency communications service, connected to the IoT future and a pathway to 5G for everyone, everywhere. Find out more at http://www.oneweb.world
Space X and Amazon now have company in what may become a satellite broadband “space war.” A long distance race involving three of the world’s richest men has just begun!
India tycoon Sunil Mital’s Bharti Airtel plans to invest $2 billion for a 50% stake in the once bankrupt low-Earth orbit satellite constellation company OneWeb and says that company will be offering global broadband services within 18 months in Alaska and the UK.
”By May-June of 2022, which is less than 18 months, OneWeb’s constellation will cover the entire globe, every square inch of this world,” the founder and chairman of Bharti Enterprises said Wednesday at a conference hosted by the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union and Saudi Arabian communication regulator CITC.
OneWeb says it will resume launches of its satellites with a Soyuz launch scheduled for Dec. 17 from the Vostochny Cosmodrome. Credit: GK Launch Services
Elon Musk’s SpaceX rockets have launched over 500 satellites for the Starlink constellation since OneWeb went into bankruptcy in March. Starlink is now testing broadband internet service with potential customers. Unlike OneWeb, Starlink’s service isn’t set to cover the extreme north and south of the planet for now, offering its rival a potential niche serving governments, shipping and aviation in remote regions.
“We welcome competition,” Mittal said. “We fight like hell in the marketplace.” Later generations of OneWeb satellites could provide global positioning capabilities, he added.
OneWeb has put 74 of an initial 648 planned satellites in orbit so far, and plans to resume launches this month. It’s not yet secured all the funding it needs to complete the constellation. Mittal estimated the overall cost at between $5.5 billion and $7 billion and said the remaining shortfall is between $2 billion and $2.5 billion — with half of that to be covered by Bharti and the British government. As for raising further capital with other investors, he said: “I don’t see that to be an issue.”
“There are still too many places where broadband access is unreliable or where it doesn’t exist at all. Kuiper will change that. Our $10 billion investment will create jobs and infrastructure around the United States that will help us close this gap,” Amazon senior vice president Dave Limp said in a statement.
Amazon has not outlined a timeline for Kuiper and the FCC said the company has not finished the satellites’ design.