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OneWeb, a London-based broadband satellite operator that resurfaced in December 2020 with some satellite launches after over a year of turmoil, including filing for bankruptcy and receiving funding for relief from the British government and Bharti. OneWeb) announced on January 15th that it has closed $ 1.4 billion in funding. The company says it’s enough to launch the rest of the 648 first-generation satellites.
In December 2020, OneWeb launched 36 new satellites, bringing the number of satellites currently in orbit to 110. This means that there are still more than 500 first-generation satellites to launch.
The company continues to scrape its ambitions. Earlier in the week of January 11th, OneWeb announced that it had “streamlined the constellation”, resulting in fewer license requests to US authorities. Originally, the company had applied to the Federal Communications Commission for 47,884 satellites for market access. Now that number has dropped to 6372.
OneWeb said it will be funded by SoftBank Group and Hughes Network Systems. A month ago, OneWeb put 36 satellites into orbit on its third launch. At the time, the company’s chairman, Sunil Bharti Mittal, said he was on track to raise $ 400 million. It seems that it has happened.
“OneWeb’s mission is to connect everyone, everywhere. Since breaking out of Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code in November, we’ve made great strides in restarting our business,” the company said. Neil Masterson, CEO of the company, said in a statement. “We welcome the investment by SoftBank and Hughes as evidence of progress towards achieving our goals.”
A spokeswoman told me that OneWeb will not publish the valuation. With this round, the company’s cumulative funding seems to have reached about $ 4.5 billion (about 466.8 billion yen). However, bankruptcy means a significant recapitalization and revaluation of the business, and those figures include pre-restructuring funding.
Both Softbank and Hughes have invested in OneWeb in the past and have been partners. So this investment is like an insurance policy to make sure the previous investment isn’t completely wasted (at least some have been reported. Softbank partially went to OneWeb a few years ago. A spectacular loss of $ 24 billion, or about 2.5 trillion yen, was recorded for the investment).
Hughes, meanwhile, invested through its parent company EchoStar and signed a deal in 2017 to build a ground infrastructure that works with OneWeb and its satellites. Construction and deployment in the world of satellite technology takes years and often faces delays. So it’s not surprising that you won’t get anything from a three-year (or longer) contract.
OneWeb accepted a long-term relationship with investors and acknowledged that the ground network is still under construction by Hughes.
“We are pleased to receive an investment from SoftBank and Hughes. Both companies are familiar with our business and share our vision for the future, and our commitment gives us the opportunity to grow rapidly in the future. You can invest, “Mittal said in a statement. “With the experience and capabilities of both companies, we provide the world with a unique LEO (Low Earth Orbit) network.”
Hughes originally planned to launch its first service in 2019. But that was when OneWeb and its LEO satellites were still a pretty brilliant idea, raising $ 1.7 billion in venture funding.
The first idea is always great. However, it is also a moon shot (a grand challenge). LEO satellites have already proven useful as they help terrestrial networks provide broadband connectivity to many remote locations that cannot be reached by other means. The idea of OneWeb was to make the service convenient and to be used by quite a lot of users on the ground with a promise of 400Mbps.
While broadband usage has exploded in the meantime, OneWeb probably didn’t expect that the construction of non-satellite systems to provide connectivity would advance in network advances. Or it was how long it would take to launch the satellite on the promised timeline and how much funding would be needed.
The growing needs for 5G ubiquitous, IoT, and connectivity are still a powerful use case for the OneWeb approach overall, the company says. “It includes a network of Global Gateway Stations and an extensive user terminal that can provide fast, wideband, and low latency communications services to different customer markets at a reasonable price,” he said.
Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), said in a statement: “Our investment in OneWeb is part of our ongoing commitment to the UK’s space sector, pushing the UK to the forefront of the latest technological advances. Today’s investment makes OneWeb a global broadband connection for people, We are one step closer to achieving our mission of providing businesses and governments, while in the UK it has the potential to create new research, development and manufacturing opportunities. ”
Softbank will send an executive to OneWeb for this deal.
“We are excited to support OneWeb as it grows in capacity and accelerates towards commercialization,” said Masayoshi Son, CEO of SoftBank. “We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Bharti, the UK Government and Hughes to help achieve OneWeb’s mission to transform Internet access around the world.”
Hughes President Pradman Kaul said: “OneWeb continues to inspire the industry and attract the best players in the industry to work together to achieve the LEO constellation. Today’s investment by Hughes and Softbank meets broadband demand around the world, and With multiple transport services that complement our geostationary satellite services in terms of acceleration, we support the realization of all OneWeb’s potential to connect enterprise, government and mobility customers. ”
・ OneWeb filed for bankruptcy because it could not secure additional funds from Softbank etc.
・ Softbank stops investing and Bharti Global of India acquires and rebuilds OneWeb, a communication satellite pending bankruptcy
・ Communication satellite company OneWeb launches 36 satellites in Russia, overcoming bankruptcy filing in the spring of 2020
Rachel Maga is a technology journalist currently working at Globe Live Media agency. She has been in the Technology Journalism field for over 5 years now. Her life’s biggest milestone is the inside tour of Tesla Industries, which was gifted to her by the legend Elon Musk himself.