UK boadband satellite operator OneWeb has raised $550m (€455m) from Eutelsat Communications, a European operator of geostationary (GEO) satellites.
Eutelsat provides data services to enterprises and governments via its GEO satellites and so could be seen as a competitor. However the OneWeb low latency broadband services would add high speed data capabilities as well as 5G and IoT connections to Eutelsat and OneWeb can access Eutelsat’s established commercial reach to governments and enterprise customers in addition to its strong institutional relationships, recognised technical expertise and global fleet. The two are also looking at how to use a combination of GEO and LEO satellites for future services.
The deal brings OneWeb’s total funding to $1.9bn since its collapse last year and rescue by the UK government and Indian telecoms giant Bharti Global. This is 80 percent of its required funding, which differs from the comments made with Softbank’s $400m backing but highlights how Eutelsat managed to acquire 24 percent of the company for the investment as part of the consortium of owners. The Eutelsat deal is expected to be completed in the second half of 2021, subject to regulatory approvals.
Another European GEO satellite operator, SES, bought satellite operator o3b for its 20 satellite constellation in a medium earth orbit (MEO) in 2016 and is planning its own LEO constellation that would compete with OneWeb and Starlink from SpaceX.
Yesterday, OneWeb launched another 36 satellites into its constellation, bringing the system to 182 satellites out of the 648 planned. This means it has only two more launches left before it can start services to the UK, Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, Alaska and the Artic Seas and Canada, with global service available next year.
OneWeb is playing down its UK ownership. “As an open multi-national business, we are committed to serving the global needs of governments, businesses and communities across the world. Together we are stronger, benefitting from the entrepreneurial energy of Bharti, the extensive global outreach of the UK Government, and the expertise in the satellite industry at Eutelsat,” said Sunil Bharti Mittal, Founder and Chairman of Bharti Enterprises.
“We are delighted with the investment from Eutelsat, which validates our strategy, technology and commercial approach. We now have 80 percent of the necessary financing for the Gen 1 fleet, of which nearly 30 percent is already in space. Eutelsat’s global distribution network advances the market entry opportunities for OneWeb and we look forward to working together to capitalise on the growth opportunity and accelerate the pace of execution,” said Neil Masterson, Chief Executive Officer of OneWeb.
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