OneWeb, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communications company jointly owned by the UK Government and Bharti Global, has secured additional funding from SoftBank and Hughes Network Systems, bringing its total funding to US$1.4 billion. According to OneWeb the capital raised to date positions the company to be fully funded for its first-generation satellite fleet, totalling some 648 satellites, by the end of 2022. The funding demonstrates the rapid progress made by OneWeb to re-start the business since emerging from Chapter 11 in November 2020.
When the satellites are fully operational, OneWeb aims to deliver broadband connectivity worldwide, bridging what it refers to as the ‘global digital divide’ by offering internet access to everyone in the world, including access to the Internet of Things (IoT) in the future, and a pathway to 5G.
OneWeb’s LEO satellite system includes a network of global gateway stations and a range of user terminals for different customer markets, capable of delivering fast, low cost, high-bandwidth and low-latency communications services. In December 2020, OneWeb launched 36 new satellites, built at its Airbus Joint Venture assembly plant in Florida, USA, bringing the Company’s total fleet to 110 satellites, all fully functioning and benefitting from International Telecommunication Union spectrum priority.
Sunil Bharti Mittal, Executive chairman of OneWeb, commented, “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. We gain from their experience and capabilities, as we deliver a unique LEO network for the world.”
Pradman Kaul, president of Hughes, remarked, “The investments made 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.”
UK Secretary of State, BEIS, The Rt Hon. Kwasi Kwarteng, MP said: “Our investment in OneWeb is part of our continued commitment to the UK’s space sector, putting Britain at the forefront of the latest technological advances. This investment brings the company one step closer to delivering its mission to provide global broadband connectivity for people, businesses and governments, while potentially unlocking new research, development and manufacturing opportunities in the UK.”
In connection with the investment, SoftBank will gain a seat on OneWeb’s 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.