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.
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.
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."
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."
- OneWeb nearer to a two-horse space Internet race
- Rocket maker Polyakov nabs smallsat firm Dragonfly
- Satellites poised to join 5G network topology
- Amazon lands rockets for its satellite broadband
- OneWeb: Deals are near to plug funding gap
— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading