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Court Clears £800m Sale of OneWeb’s LEO Broadband Satellites

Saturday, October 3rd, 2020 (7:29 am) - Score 1,272
oneweb leo satellite

The US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York has officially approved the £800m ($1bn) sale of OneWeb to the UK Government and Bharti Global (here), which paves the way for the satellite ISP to continue creating a constellation of 650 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites for ultrafast low-latency broadband.

At present OneWeb has 74 compact spacecraft in a low orbit around the Earth (1200km) and their original plan was to kick things off by building a modest constellation of 650 satellites, although if things work out then they already have approval for a total of 2,000 (some 1,280 of those would sit at a mildly higher medium Earth orbit of 8,500km).

Last month the British-registered company revealed that, pending approval by the courts, they were preparing for a return-to-flight launch in December that would increase their in-orbit fleet to 110 satellites (here). The company then plans to commence commercial services “above 50 degrees north latitude” by the end of 2021 and to achieve the “deployment of its full global constellation” by the end of 2022 (one year later than the original target).

Yesterday the US Bankruptcy Court gave approval to OneWeb’s Chapter 11 plan of reorganisation, which ensures that they remain “on target to resume full business operations imminently.” The only obstacles left now are the usual customary regulatory approvals, which aren’t expected to throw up any problems and should be approved by the end of 2020. Meanwhile the company is busy preparing for their first launch since early 2020.

NOTE: A federal bankruptcy judge also recently approved a motion that will allow OneWeb to access $235m in debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing, which should help to get things moving.

Adrian Steckel, CEO of OneWeb, said:

“As we await the final mechanical components of the transaction, we set our eyes back to the skies with the resumption of launches later this year and commencing commercial services within a year. We are working closely with HMG and Bharti and are pleased with their commitment and partnership as we remain ever-focused on our mission to bring connectivity to communities and people around the world.”

The United Kingdom, as well as Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, the Arctic seas and Canada, will be among the first regions to benefit from access to the new LEO satellite based broadband connectivity when it goes live next year. The new network will focus on delivering “enterprise-grade connectivity services for communities, businesses and governments.”

The low altitude of such spacecraft enables them to deliver significantly faster latency and “fibre-like” broadband ISP speeds have also been promoted for remote areas. One early test from last year hit speeds of 400Mbps and delivered an average latency of 32ms, which is impressive for a Satellite technology (existing satellites are usually much slower), but it’s unclear what end-users can expect or how much it will cost.

The reference to “communities” above suggests to us that, when dealing with the issue of domestic connectivity (homes etc.), OneWeb may be more likely to supply capacity for a distributed ground-based fixed wireless broadband style network. The UK Government has also hinted about an ambition that could see some level of GPS capability being added to future LEOs, but at present a solid plan has yet to materialise.

Leave a Comment
12 Responses
  1. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

    Wonder if they can put this to use as a replacement for the European GPS system we’re shortly about to lose access too?

    1. Avatar GPS4ALL says:

      yes they can. but some people prefer a story by a single academic (left-wing, government hating) who says they’re the “wrong type” of satellite. Dr Bleddyn Bowen is of course incorrect and he doesn’t know what chip scale atomic clocks are. He thinks you need to put 20kilo clocks in each satellite

    2. Avatar Nigel Farage says:

      Too Right GPS4ALL! We’re British and CAN DO ANYTHING! “Experts” PAH! WHAT DO THEY KNOW?? Our Red, White and Blue satellites will have giant speakers which will blast-out “Rule, Britannia!” over the WHOLE EARTH! The “Experts” say sound doesn’t carry in the vacuum of space, but our speakers will be BRITISH and be POWERED BY PATRIOTISM! We will prove them wrong YET AGAIN!!!

    3. Avatar GPS4ALL says:

      what ? what has some academic being wrong got to do with some brexity style super patriotism?

      do you work for the grauniad or something? imagine hating yourself and your country so much that any accomplishment by the government needs to be laughed at before it even began. Marixsts are a crazy bunch. Have you tried twitter? They also talk just like you do, i’m sure you’d fit in well there.

    4. Avatar Nigel Farage says:

      @GPS4ALL: WHAT??!! I was wrong about you, I thought you were a TRUE RED WHITE AND BLUE PATRIOT! Now I can see that you’re ANTI BRITISH LOONY FAR LEFTIST TROLL just pretending to be a REAL BRIT! HOW DARE YOU say that I, NIGEL FARAGE, am anything other that a 100% RED WHITE AND BLUE PATRIOT! I SAVED YOU FROM THE COMMIES!! YOU MAKE ME SICK!! SHAME ON YOU!! Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves!! La, la, laaa la, laaa la, laaala laa, stick that, up your, jumper! God Save the Queen and my best buddy Trump!

    5. Avatar Not-a-unicornist says:

      GPS4ALL Wow, what a stereotypical ultra nationalist loon. Still waiting for your unicorns I see, they won’t be delivered by LEO satellites (or by any another method). The Express’ comment section would be better suited to your fanaticism.

    6. Avatar Bob2002 says:

      Seem to be a lot of infantile left-wingers in the comments trying to silence everyone else. Anyway Stanford produced a 2016 presentation on LEO GPS giving OneWeb as an example, here’s the link –

      http://web.stanford.edu/group/scpnt/gpslab/website_files/LEO_sat_nav/ION_GNSS_2016_LEO_Navigation_Reid.pdf

    7. Avatar Rich says:

      Chip scale atomic clocks are not accurate enough for GPS. They are only accurate to within 100 microseconds a day.

      100 microseconds a day is 100×10^-6, Gallileo is targeting (and meeting) 30 nanosecond accuracy, about 3000x more accurate.

      This system cannot be converted into a GPS no matter what Boris or Nigel want you to believe.

    8. Avatar Andrew says:

      Rich,
      If you read the link Bob posted you’ll see there are mitigations for the issues you mention.
      Cheers
      Andrew

  2. Avatar cdh1981 says:

    “low-latency” “average 32ms”

    -laughs in FTTP-

    1. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

      Compared to my average 60-80ms from Three 4g i’d take 32ms any day!

    2. Avatar Mike says:

      @Buggerlugz

      Try one of the other major networks, usually EE has decent latency times.

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