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OneWeb UK Satellites Get GBP216m Funding Boost from Hanwha

Thursday, August 12th, 2021 (7:18 am) - Score 720
oneweb leo satellite

OneWeb, which is partly owned by the UK Government, Bharti Global, Eutelsat and Softbank, has today secured a $300m (£216) equity investment boost from South Korea’s Hanwha Systems to help further develop their large constellation of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites for ultrafast low-latency broadband provision.

At present OneWeb has launched a total of 254 small c.150kg Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites into space and their initial plan is to build a constellation of 648 satellites, which is enough for a reasonable level of global coverage by around the end of 2022. The main focus being on business, maritime and government connectivity, although a recent deal with UK ISP BT could also see it being used to support rural broadband and 5G (here).

NOTE: Today’s announcement means that the operator now has a total funding pile of $2.7bn (£1.95bn).

The additional investment from Hanwha Systems, which gives them a smaller 8.8% share of the company, is thus more focused on what comes after the first 648 LEOs. We already know that the operator has future approval for a total of 2,000 satellites and 1,280 of those would be a second-generation model that could sit in a higher Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) of 8,500km – possibly with some GPS style features.

OneWeb has also previously announced that they intend to develop an experimental satelliteJoey-Sat – to test some of their next generation technologies (here), which is due for launch sometime in 2022. According to the announcement, Hanwha will bring further defence capabilities and the latest antenna technologies to OneWeb, alongside relationships to new government customers and expanded geographical reach.

Neil Masterson, CEO at OneWeb, said:

“Hanwha brings advanced defence and antenna technology development to the OneWeb line-up. We are all delighted that they have chosen to join us on this journey of innovation, shaping a global service to connect the most remote locations and to provide a critical digital pathway from space to our interconnected world.”

Kwasi Kwarteng, UK Business Secretary, said:

“Today’s $300m investment in OneWeb by Hanwha is the latest in a series of votes of confidence in the company from the market. It’s clear that leading global investors see a promising future for this ground-breaking company and a robust commercial case for investment.

The Government’s equity stake in OneWeb not only allows the UK to capitalise on our first-mover advantage to deploy low Earth orbit technology but will put our country at the forefront of the small satellite market, which is set to rapidly expand over the years ahead.”

OneWeb’s first initial commercial (beta) services are predicted to go live across parts of the United Kingdom, Alaska, Canada, Northern Europe, Greenland, Iceland, and the Arctic seas in November 2021 (i.e. from 50th parallel and above). In theory, this could offer ultrafast broadband speeds of 100Mbps+ and fast latency times of 40ms or less to end-users.

However, the company is some way behind SpaceX’s rival Starlink network, which unlike OneWeb is able to directly serve end-consumers. But both operators also face the same challenge, which is to prove that they can turn a huge constellation of compact LEO broadband satellites into a viable commercial business. Achieving that will take time and is not guaranteed, particularly with so much competition in the same.. space.

OneWeb is due to launch a further batch of 36 LEOs sometime this month from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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15 Responses
  1. Richard Smales says:

    Only a year ago the government was receiving almost uniform criticism for its decision to save and invest in OneWeb.

    The BBC reports and most of the broadsheets at the time were all in vehement agreement that OneWeb was a basket case and that Dominic Cumming’s strategy of buying it and developing it was doomed to failure.

    How times have changed – OneWeb appears to be thriving and continues to receive external / industry investment.

    1. Tom says:

      Yep, $2.7Bn total investment now, with the latest rounds from SoftBank, Hughes and now Hanwah.

      Just goes to show it’s 100% partisan politics 100% of the time now i.e if my political enemy (because, let’s be frank, that’s where we are now) says it’s right, I say it’s wrong. It’s practically their religion now.

    2. Name says:

      Let us all know Richard, once it will be profitable and they start lending UK tax payer money.

    3. D Roberts says:

      Lets not pretend that this is something new, or that this administration are hard done-by victims.

      Had the Blair / Brown administration taken a punt on a bankrupt satellite company during their tenure, the howling from the (then) opposition benches in the Commons, and the red top press, would have been absolutely deafening and incessant.

    4. Lucas says:

      If I remember correctly Richard, OneWeb had a similar level of investment prior to its March 2020 insolvency.

      It’s far too soon to call it thriving, that’s beyond wishful thinking, it doesn’t even generate revenue yet.

  2. Permanently Pseudointellectual says:

    Tom just wait. The pseudo intellectuals will come along calling anyone who doesn’t participate in hate week against Oneweb all kinds of nasty names because their side of the political spectrum does that, they find people online to insult, strawman and gaslight. Then they’ll hold a shining candle example of one left-leaning anti-government academic who thinks GPS is impossible on LEO satellites because he hasn’t got a clue and they’ll use that as an example that everyone except them and people who vote for their party is stupid. That’s the world we’re in now. The left are so full of vitriol and hate that it seeps out of every orifice and somehow through their fingers and on to the internet.

    Just wait.

    1. Name says:

      Yeah, I am waiting for this business to become profitable and start lending my (UK tax payer) money back.

    2. M says:

      Good grief, what a long winded effort to turn a broadband story into a political statement and insult!

    3. Poor excuse for a pseudointellectual says:

      My money’s “Permanently Pseudointellectual” being the unhinged right-wing troll Randy.

    4. D Roberts says:

      Pseudo,

      Speaking of “vitriol and hate” you appear to be absolutely dripping in it.

      What a silly little hypocrite you are.

      Grow-up.

    5. Frank says:

      @Pseudointellectual.

      Wow, that was the longest and loudest scream of victimhood, that I’ve ever had the misfortune to read.

      Seriously if you’re not already in receipt of professional help, please seek it immediately.

    6. 125us says:

      “ The left are so full of vitriol and hate that it seeps out of every orifice and somehow through their fingers and on to the internet.”

      Wow, the irony.

  3. M says:

    I would much rather pay for Starlink, not least because my tax’s haven’t funded it! I wait to hear when this OneWeb is finally earning a profit and paying back the tax’s lent to it. But if it’s anything like the banks it’ll be a very long time before that happens.

  4. Rule, Bharat Mata! Bharat Mata, rule the orbit! says:

    The British taxpayer’s ‘ownership’ of OneWeb continues to dwindle… Could it be that our Dear Leaders have given-up on their ‘wrong type of satellites’ gamble? How long until they cash in our holding and slink away?

    Cue outrage and vitriol from the likes of Permanently Pseudointellectual…

  5. NeilM says:

    Hopefully OneWeb or SpaceX will succeed, since neither is guaranteed, given the costs involved. If one becomes viable, then at least that will give consumers some options apart from Viasat and Hughes.

    I appreciate the Oneweb at this time is not direct to consumer.

    I suppose if I was a shipping company, I could probably afford to have both on top of each ship.

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