The Financial Times reports that OneWeb is preparing to file for bankruptcy and lay off most of its employees after failing to obtain additional financing from investors to continue building out its satellite broadband constellation.
The story is behind a paywall, so I don’t have a lot of details at this point. OneWeb will apparently keep a small team in place to operate the 74 satellites the company has launched into orbit while it seeks addition funding needed to emerge from bankruptcy.
Attempts to obtain additional funding from the company’s main backer, SoftBank, fell through.
The news comes less than a week after a Russian Soyuz booster launched 34 OneWeb satellites. Two previous launches in February 2019 and February 2020 had orbited 6 and 34 spacecraft, respectively.
OneWeb, which was founded by Greg Wyler, has been planning to launch 680 satellites in order to provide broadband services to any location on Earth.
The company’s main competitor is SpaceX, which has launched 362 satellites as part of its Starlink constellation. SpaceX has received approvals to launch nearly 12,000 Starlink satellites. Elon Musk’s company has also submitted an application to the Federal Communications Commission to launch an additional 30,000 spacecraft to bring the total to 42,000.
Jeff Bezos’ Amazon has jumped into a crowded field of companies seeking to provide high-speed broadband, data and other communications services to the entire globe.
Amazon’s Kuiper constellation of 3,236 satellites brings the total number of spacecraft in the 16 announced systems to 20,241 spacecraft. The competition includes SpaceX, Boeing, Telesat, SES and government-backed companies in China and Russia.
Investment enables completion of Tarana’s revolutionary solution for fixed wireless broadband access.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (Tarana Wireless) — Tarana Wireless Inc. today announced a $60 million financing with Khosla Ventures and EchoStar Corporation, as a follow-on to financing of $28m led by 1010 Holdings, LLC, the family offices of Greg Wyler. In conjunction with the financing, EchoStar Chairman Charlie Ergen, Khosla Ventures partner Samir Kaul, and Greg Wyler, Chairman of OneWeb, have joined Tarana’s board of directors. Kranti Kilaru recently stepped down from his role as EVP at EchoStar to join Tarana’s leadership team as President.
With total financing of nearly $200 million, Tarana has created a new class of radio technology with unprecedented immunity to obstructions, interference, changing conditions, and spectrum scarcity. Tarana’s fixed wireless access technology will drive a tenfold improvement in the network economics of gigabit broadband access at massive scale.
BELLEVUE, Wash. (EarthNow PR) — EarthNow LLC announces intent to deploy a large constellation of advanced imaging satellites that will deliver real-time, continuous video of almost anywhere on Earth. The latest company to spin-out from Intellectual Ventures, EarthNow recently closed a first round of financing with investments from Airbus, the SoftBank Group, Bill Gates, and Greg Wyler. The initial funding focuses primarily on maturing the overall system design to deliver innovative and unique real-time Earth observation services.
According to EarthNow’s founder and CEO, Russell Hannigan, “EarthNow is ambitious and unprecedented, but our objective is simple; we want to connect you visually with Earth in real-time. We believe the ability to see and understand the Earth live and unfiltered will help all of us better appreciate and ultimately care for our one and only home.”
Some good news for satellite Internet company OneWeb:
Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. has agreed to invest roughly $500 million more in satellite broadband provider OneWeb Ltd., according to a person familiar with the details, boosting the U.S. startup’s plan to offer significantly faster internet connections world-wide than most traditional systems, either space-based or terrestrial.
The latest commitment would boost SoftBank’s total investment in the project to about $1.5 billion, even as Greg Wyler, OneWeb’s founder and executive chairman, disclosed over the weekend that his company already is designing and seeking suppliers for a more powerful new generation of satellites. He said those eventually are slated to deliver ultra-high-speed connectivity, including across rural or developing regions, approximately as fast as typical fiber optic networks.
The precise size and structure of SoftBank’s additional investment could change, said the person familiar with the details and others close to the talks. But Mr. Wyler and SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son, they said, agreed in principle on the cash infusion during recent discussions, with the caveat that SoftBank’s stake in OneWeb would remain less than 50%.
Work on OneWeb’s previously announced initial fleet of more than 700 small, low-altitude satellites is “generally on schedule” for launches beginning next year, starting to market service over Alaska in 2019 and expanding virtually around the globe by the end of 2020, according to Mr. Wyler. During a weekend interview, he also said deployment of roughly 900 second-generation, higher-orbiting satellites by the mid-2020s—intended to create the first such large-scale, hybrid constellation on orbit—is projected to increase speeds roughly fivefold to 2.5 gigabits per second.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (OneWeb PR) – In a ceremony witnessed by H.E the Minister Eng. Abdulla Al-Sawaha and Sir Richard Branson, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) and OneWeb have signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on the development of solutions in 2020 which should help to connect 237,000 homes throughout the country bringing much needed affordable, high-speed, low latency broadband access to those living in rural and remote areas.
This MOU comes within the efforts of MCIT to extend all the Kingdom’s areas of high-speed internet and to enhance the infrastructure of communications and data networks, in line with the National Transformation Plan aiming to reach high-speed Internet for the vast majority of rural and remote areas by 2020.
Testimony of Greg Wyler Founder and Executive Chairman, Worldu Satellites Limited (OneWeb)
Before Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Technology Oct. 25, 2017
This is a great time to discuss our progress as we are investing over $4 billion to build the world’s first large scale satellite constellation, and will begin launching our fleet in the coming months.
TITUSVILLE, Fla. (RUAG Space PR) — RUAG Space, a leading product supplier to the space industry, held a celebratory reception last night, marking the commencement of full production capabilities in its Titusville, Florida facility. Production is set to begin, with the first delivery batches foreseen in approximately 1.5 months. Embracing state-of-the-art machinery and automated processes, this new facility aligns with the industry’s ambition toward cheaper access to space.
Luxembourg, Jersey, and Tokyo, Japan, February 28, 2017 (Intelsat PR) — Intelsat (NYSE: I) and OneWeb today announced that they have entered into a definitive combination agreement pursuant to which Intelsat and OneWeb will merge in a share-for-share transaction. Intelsat and SoftBank Group Corp. (“SoftBank”) also entered into a definitive share purchase agreement pursuant to which SoftBank will invest $1.7 billion in newly issued common and preferred shares of the combined company. Both the merger and the SoftBank investment are subject to, among other conditions, successful completion of debt exchange offers to certain existing Intelsat bondholders as well as receipt of certain regulatory approvals.
It’s going to be busy year in space in 2017. Here’s a look at what we can expect over the next 12 months.
A New Direction for NASA?
NASA’s focus under the Obama Administration has been to try to commercialize Earth orbit while creating a foundation that would allow the space agency to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s.
Whether Mars will remain a priority under the incoming Trump Administration remains to be seen. There is a possibility Trump will refocus the space agency on lunar missions instead.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), who is currently viewed as a leading candidate for NASA administrator, has written two blog posts focused on the importance of exploring the moon and developing its resources. Of course, whether Bridenstine will get NASA’s top job is unclear at this time.
LONDON, 26 July 2016 (OneWeb PR) — OneWeb which is building a new global communications system to create affordable broadband services for all, announces the appointment of Eric Beranger as Chief Executive Officer.
If the current schedule holds, Virgin Galactic’s revamped LauncherOne program will enter commercial service sometime in 2018 after roughly a decade of development. During that period, the program has been redefined several times, lost two of the key people hired to lead it, and changed its launch platform from WhiteKnightTwo to a jumbo jet. The estimates for the initial flight tests also have slipped by about four years from 2013 to 2017.
Below is a timeline of the program’s major events, milestones, announcements, hires and departures, and other things. Feel free to let me know if I’ve missed anything significant.
OneWeb announces $500 million funding round for 900 satellite constellation
Backers include Airbus Group, Coca-Cola, Intelsat, Qualcomm, Hughes Network Systems and Virgin Galactic
Largest commercial rocket order ever includes 21 Soyuz launchers and 39 launches of Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne
LONDON (OneWeb PR) — OneWeb, which is building a new global communications system to create affordable broadband services for all, today announces it has raised $500 million of funding from a group of leading international companies.
OneWeb has attracted investment from Airbus Group, Bharti Enterprises, Hughes Network Systems, (Hughes), a subsidiary of EchoStar Corp., Intelsat, Qualcomm Incorporated, The Coca-Cola Company, the Virgin Group, and Totalplay, a Grupo Salinas Company, owned by Ricardo B. Salinas.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk held an invite-only event last night in Seattle to unveil his plan to deliver global Internet services via satellite. The event was closed to media, but he did describe the program in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek.
The plan involves launching a constellation of hundreds of satellites that would orbit 750 miles above the Earth. The spacecraft would provide direct, high-speed communications to any location on the planet and reach billions of people currently unable to access the Internet.
“Our focus is on creating a global communications system that would be larger than anything that has been talked about to date,” Musk told Bloomberg Businessweek ahead of the announcement.
The plan is similar to a $2 billion initiative announced earlier this week by Greg Wyler. The company, OneWeb, is beingt backed by the Virgin Group and Qualcomm.
Musk and Wyler have known each other for years. Musk, in fact, used to crash at Wyler’s guest house in Atherton, Calif. While there are major similarities between the two ventures, Musk says he’ll have an edge through SpaceX’s smarts and manufacturing techniques. “Greg and I have a fundamental disagreement about the architecture,” Musk says. “We want a satellite that is an order of magnitude more sophisticated than what Greg wants. I think there should be two competing systems.”
Musk used last night’s event to formally announce the opening of an engineering center in the Seattle area. The new center will initially recruite about 60 employees, with plans to expand to as many as 1,000 within three to four years. Employees will work on SpaceX’s satellite network, Falcon rockets and Dragon spacecraft, Musk said.
STUART, Fla., Jan. 15, 2015 (OneWeb PR) — WorldVu Satellites Limited, operating as OneWeb, Ltd, today announced plans to build, launch and operate a low-earth-orbit satellite constellation to help bring high-speed Internet and telephony to billions of people around the world. Qualcomm Incorporated and The Virgin Group have been announced as initial investors, with Qualcomm Executive Chairman Dr. Paul Jacobs and Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard Branson to join OneWeb founder Greg Wyler on the company’s board of directors. Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed. OneWeb plans to bring in additional investors to fund construction, launch and operation of its system.
According to the International Telecommunications Union, as of the end of 2014, more than half the world’s population lacks Internet access. OneWeb, founded in 2012 under the name WorldVu, hopes to bring high-speed Internet and telephony to people living in underserved areas. The OneWeb satellite system introduces the first-ever telecom-class micro satellites. This projected fleet of 648 micro satellites is intended to provide low-latency, high-speed Internet access directly to small user terminals deployed around the world.