from the not-enough-space dept.
OneWeb has filed for bankruptcy and intends to sell its business, bringing an abrupt end to the company's plan to offer high-speed satellite Internet service around the world.
OneWeb announced Friday that it "voluntarily filed for relief under Chapter 11 of the [US] Bankruptcy Code," and "intends to use these proceedings to pursue a sale of its business in order to maximize the value of the company." OneWeb made the decision "after failing to secure new funding from investors including its biggest backer SoftBank," largely because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Financial Times wrote. OneWeb also "axed most of its staff on Friday," the FT article said.
OneWeb previously raised $3 billion over multiple rounds of financing and was seeking more money to fund its deployment and commercial launch. "Our current situation is a consequence of the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis," OneWeb CEO Adrián Steckel said in the bankruptcy announcement. "We remain convinced of the social and economic value of our mission to connect everyone everywhere."
The bankruptcy announcement came a week after OneWeb said it expected "delays to our launch schedule and satellite manufacturing due to increasing travel restrictions and the disruption of supply chains globally."
[...] OneWeb had already launched 74 satellites and demonstrated broadband speeds of more than 400Mbps with latency of 32ms. The company was a key competitor to SpaceX's Starlink division, which has launched 362 satellites and plans to launch thousands more. The satellites of both OneWeb and SpaceX operate in low Earth orbits, allowing them to provide much lower latency than traditional geostationary satellites.
OneWeb at one point was ahead of SpaceX in the satellite race, having secured Federal Communications Commission approval in June 2017, before SpaceX did. OneWeb planned to serve the United States and global markets from "720 low-Earth orbit satellites using the Ka (20/30GHz) and Ku (11/14GHz) frequency bands," the FCC noted at the time.
OneWeb's bankruptcy announcement noted that it owns the rights to "valuable global spectrum," which may entice a buyer. OneWeb said it has also "begun development on a range of user terminals for a variety of customer markets, [and] has half of its 44 ground stations completed or in development." The current deployment of 74 satellites is "too small to offer telecoms services or generate revenues," the Financial Times wrote.
Richard Branson, the founder and largest shareholder of suborbital spaceflight company Virgin Galactic, will sell more than a fifth of Virgin Group's majority stake in the company to raise funds to aid its other companies affected by the pandemic.
In a statement May 11, the company announced that Vieco 10, the Virgin Group holding company that owns the majority of Virgin Galactic, planned to sell up to 25 million shares, accounting for about 22% of its overall stake in the company. That sale would generate $485 million for Virgin at the price of $19.40 per share at the close of trading May 11.
Virgin Group said the sale of stock, the company said in a statement and in its S-1 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), was "to support its portfolio of global leisure, holiday and travel businesses that have been affected by the unprecedented impact of COVID-19."
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SpaceX and OneWeb have asked for US permission to launch tens of thousands of additional satellites into low Earth orbit.
OneWeb's application to launch nearly 48,000 satellites is surprising because the satellite-broadband company filed for bankruptcy in March. OneWeb is highly unlikely to launch a significant percentage of these satellites under its current structure, as the company reportedly "axed most of its staff" when it filed for bankruptcy and says it intends to use bankruptcy proceedings "to pursue a sale of its business in order to maximize the value of the company." Getting FCC approval to launch more satellites could improve the value of OneWeb's assets and give more options to whoever buys the company.
The British government and Indian mobile network operator Bharti Global placed the winning bid to acquire OneWeb, a broadband megaconstellation startup that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March after running out of funding, OneWeb said July 3.
OneWeb said it has secured $1 billion in new funding — $500 million from the British government to "deliver first UK sovereign space capability," and another $500 million from Indian mobile network operator Bharti Global — to recapitalize its constellation effort.
OneWeb, in a news release, said the funding will "effectuate the full end-to-end deployment of the OneWeb system," but did not specify if that system is the original 650-satellite constellation the company was pursuing prior to bankruptcy. OneWeb has 74 satellites in low Earth orbit.
"This deal underlines the scale of Britain's ambitions on the global stage," Alok Sharma, business secretary for the British government, said in a separate July 3 release from the U.K. Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. "Our access to a global fleet of satellites has the potential to connect millions of people worldwide to broadband, many for the first time, and the deal presents the opportunity to further develop our strong advanced manufacturing base right here in the UK."
The U.K. government is set to try and take on Elon Musk's Starlink after it was crowned the winning bidder of failed satellite company OneWeb at an auction in New York.
[...] The $1 billion-plus rescue bid was made through a consortium involving India's Bharti Global, which through Bharti Airtel, is the third-largest mobile operator in the world, with over 425 million customers.
[...] U.K. Business Secretary Alok Sharma confirmed the government has pledged to invest $500 million and take a "significant" equity share in OneWeb, which is headquartered in London. The stake is reported to be around 20%.
OneWeb has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy under new ownership and says it will begin launching more broadband satellites next month. Similar to SpaceX Starlink, OneWeb is building a network of low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellites that can provide high-speed broadband with much lower latencies than traditional geostationary satellites.
After a launch in December, "launches will continue throughout 2021 and 2022, and OneWeb is now on track to begin commercial connectivity services to the UK and the Arctic region in late 2021 and will expand to delivering global services in 2022," OneWeb said in an announcement Friday.
[...] OneWeb previously launched 74 satellites into low-Earth orbits and said it plans a launch of 36 more satellites on December 17, 2020. The Friday announcement also said OneWeb plans "a constellation of 650 LEO satellites," but that could be just the beginning. OneWeb in August secured US approval for 1,280 satellites in medium Earth orbits, bringing its total authorization to 2,000 satellites.
Previously: SpaceX Approved to Deploy 1 Million U.S. Starlink Terminals; OneWeb Reportedly Considers Bankruptcy
OneWeb Goes Bankrupt, Lays Off Staff, Will Sell Satellite-Broadband Business
OneWeb Seeks Permission to Launch 48,000 Satellites Despite Bankruptcy
UK Government and Indian Mobile Operator Acquire OneWeb and its Broadband Satellites