$400m takes OneWeb satellite network to full rollout

$400m takes OneWeb satellite network to full rollout

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

UK satellite operator OneWeb has raised $400m from Softbank in Japan that allows the network to be fully funded for its fleet of 648 satellites by the end of 2022.

The deal with existing partner Hughes indicates one of the routes to market. As well as currently owning chip designer ARM, Softbank also backs several major mobile phone networks that would make use of the global OneWeb broadband connections for 5G and the Internet of Things. Hughes joined the consortium back in July 2020, but the investment through parent Echostar provides customers and equipment makers in satellite network across the US and will be building the ground systems.

The network was rescued from bankruptcy last year in a $1bn deal wit the UK government and Indian mobile operator Bharti. The UK government sees this as potentially unlocking new research, development and manufacturing opportunities. The satellites are currently manufactured in a joint venture with Airbus in Florida, US. The rescue, and the roll out of a competing broadband network from the US by SpaceX, has also promoted the EU to shake up its space strategy.

“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,” said Neil Masterson, CEO of OneWeb.

OneWeb currently has 110 satellite in low earth orbit (LEO) and is building a network of global gateway stations and a range of user terminals for different markets capable of delivering affordable high-bandwidth and low-latency links.

“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,” said Sunil Bharti Mittal, Executive Chairman of OneWeb. 

Next: LEO satellite positioning service

Technology developments could see the combination of Hughes and OneWeb satellites providing positioning data as an alternative to the GPS and Galileo systems.

“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,” said Masayoshi Son, Representative Director, Corporate Officer, Chairman & CEO of SoftBank, which is currently selling ARM to Nvidia.

“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,” said Pradman Kaul, President of Hughes.

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

Background to the OneWeb satellite saga 

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