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.