OneWeb hails funding boost from Eutelsat

Eutelsat to gain a 24% stake in the LEO satellite operator as 36 more satellites are sent into orbit.

Anne Morris, Contributing Editor, Light Reading

April 28, 2021

3 Min Read
OneWeb hails funding boost from Eutelsat

OneWeb, the UK-based satellite broadband contender, took another big step forward by announcing a new shareholder, new funding and the launch into orbit of another 36 satellites.

Eutelsat Communications is acquiring a 24% stake in the provider and injecting a further $550 million into its coffers, taking OneWeb's total funding to $1.9 billion. The investment is expected to be completed in the second half of 2021, subject to regulatory approvals.

OneWeb hailed the investment by "one of the world's most experienced and largest global operators" as a vote of confidence in its plan to offer broadband connectivity worldwide via its low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite system.

Figure 1: Blast off: Eutelsat has thrown its weight behind OneWeb to take on Elon Musk and Starlink. (Source: Roscosmos, Space-Center-Vostochny and TsENKi) Blast off: Eutelsat has thrown its weight behind OneWeb to take on Elon Musk and Starlink.
(Source: Roscosmos, Space-Center-Vostochny and TsENKi)

As a geostationary satellite operator, Eutelsat is expected to add a further dimension to OneWeb's strategy, with indications that the two companies will "explore GEO/LEO configurations for future service integrations and packages."

Eutelsat commented that its investment leaves OneWeb "almost fully funded" and said the company "is well advanced in terms of securing its remaining funding needs this year."

Rodolphe Belmer, CEO of Eutelsat, said: "OneWeb will become our main growth engine outside our broadcast and broadband applications."

"We are confident in OneWeb's right to win thanks to its earliness to market, priority spectrum rights and evolving, scalable technology," he added.

Rising stars

Indeed, OneWeb has come a long way from its earlier brush with bankruptcy, when the UK government and Bharti Global rescued it for $1 billion in November 2020.

It also just launched another 36 satellites into its constellation, bringing the system to 182 satellites, with 648 planned in total.

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."

Want to know more about satellite? Check out our dedicated security channel here on Light Reading.

The skies are certainly becoming increasingly crowded with satellites of all shapes and sizes.

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."

Related posts:

— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

Read more about:


About the Author(s)

Anne Morris

Contributing Editor, Light Reading

Anne Morris is a freelance journalist, editor and translator. She has been working in the telecommunications sector since 1996, when she joined the London-based team of Communications Week International as copy editor. Over the years she held the editor position at Total Telecom Online and Total Tele-com Magazine, eventually leaving to go freelance in 2010. Now living in France, she writes for a number of titles and also provides research work for analyst companies.

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like