OneWeb scaled back its satellite constellation plans this week. The company reduced its ask of the US FCC to just 6,372 additional satellites, down from 47,884. The company also announced additional investments from SoftBank and Hughes, a move that “positions the Company to be fully funded for its first-generation satellite fleet, totaling 648 satellites, by the end of 2022.”
OneWeb’s mission is to connect everyone, everywhere. 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.– Neil Masterson, CEO of OneWeb
The investment from Hughes and SoftBank represent approximately $400 million in additional capital, bringing the total equity raise to $1.4 billion since emerging from bankruptcy protection in late 2020. The initial billion in funds came from the UK government and Indian telecom giant Bharti Global.
As part of its new $350 million investment in the company SoftBank gains a seat on the Board of Directors. SoftBank previously pushed $2 billion into OneWeb, but that was prior to the bankruptcy reorganization in 2020.
Hughes does not get a seat on the board, but its $50 million stake helps ensure that OneWeb’s development continues, including the build out of the ground infrastructure being provided by Hughes and its parent company EchoStar.
The investments made today by Hughes and SoftBank will help realize 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.– Pradman Kaul, President of Hughes
Since emerging from bankruptcy protection in November OneWeb has quickly resumed production of its satellites. The factory in Florida, a joint venture with Airbus, is once again producing the hardware and the company successfully launched 36 into orbit on 18 December 2020.
The in-orbit constellation now numbers 110 active satellites. The latest launch positions the company to deliver commercial services to customers in the United Kingdom, Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, the Artic Seas, and Canada in 2021. True global coverage should follow in 2022.
Launching OneWeb IFC
With the global footprint active OneWeb will be able to deliver on its goal of adding in-flight connectivity to its portfolio of services. In September 2019 VP Commercial Aviation described the company’s goal “to change the view on what inflight connectivity can be.” That remains a very real goal for the company. Those efforts were delayed by the bankruptcy, but in some ways that could prove helpful.
Getting the service on to aircraft will require significant leaps forward in antenna and terminal development. Most notable is a need for fully electronic phased array antenna systems that can instantly switch between the fast-moving LEO satellites. Companies continue to progress on that front, but none have delivered a system ready to fly. Yet.
And now there’s a little more breathing room on the timeline to align the terminal and antenna development with the constellation deployment.
More OneWeb coverage
- Seamless Air Alliance hopes to deliver frictionless inflight connectivity
- PaxEx Update: 19 July 2019
- OneWeb launches high-speed satellite production facility
- OneWeb plans faster inflight connectivity network
- OneWeb, Iridium look to partner on LEO-based solutions
- Slot jockeying and Wifi Deals: PaxEx Update for 2019-09-20
- OneWeb secures funding from Bharti, UK Gov’t
- Accessible Lavs and more wifi flying: The Weekly Wrap–10 July 2020
- Global Eagle refocuses on long-term outlook
- Gogo confirms "extensive" discussions to sell commercial airline inflight connectivity business
- OneWeb emerges from bankruptcy, ready to launch
- OneWeb shrinks constellation plans, expands funding
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