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posted by Fnord666 on Saturday July 04 2020, @06:26AM   Printer-friendly
from the your-government-as-your-ISP dept.

British government and Bharti Global buy OneWeb, plan $1 billion investment to revive 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."

UK looks to challenge Elon Musk's Starlink after winning bid for bankrupt satellite company OneWeb

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%.

Previously: OneWeb Goes Bankrupt, Lays Off Staff, Will Sell Satellite-Broadband Business
OneWeb Seeks Permission to Launch 48,000 Satellites Despite Bankruptcy

Original Submission

Related Stories

OneWeb Goes Bankrupt, Lays Off Staff, Will Sell Satellite-Broadband Business 6 comments

OneWeb goes bankrupt, lays off staff, will sell satellite-broadband business:

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 Seeks Permission to Launch 48,000 Satellites Despite Bankruptcy 12 comments

Bankrupt OneWeb seeks license for 48,000 satellites, even more than SpaceX

SpaceX and OneWeb have asked for US permission to launch tens of thousands of additional satellites into low Earth orbit.

SpaceX's application to launch 30,000 satellites—in addition to the nearly 12,000 it already has permission for—is consistent with SpaceX's previously announced plans for Starlink.

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.

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

Original Submission

OneWeb Emerges from Bankruptcy, Set to Launch More Satellites in December 2020 7 comments

OneWeb exits bankruptcy and is ready to launch more broadband satellites

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

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Saturday July 04 2020, @06:37AM (8 children)

    by PiMuNu (3823) on Saturday July 04 2020, @06:37AM (#1016021)

    There was a notion floating a couple of weeks ago that the British government were buying OneWeb to try to gain access to a GPS system. Not sure if that is still the case, nor if it would actually work (or how heavily modified the OneWeb satellites would need to be).

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 04 2020, @07:02AM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 04 2020, @07:02AM (#1016033)

      It wouldn't work at all.

      You would need to throw out the telecoms equipment, put in an atomic clock, thereby changing the complete frame and all stabilization variables, requiring changes to the control systems, then raise the design orbit from 1200km to roughly 20.000km which usually forces you to give the satellite actual maneuvering ability instead of just orbit-keeping (i.e.: bigger engine, propellant tanks, control system) and, while you're at it, also coordinate your worldwide use of a totally different portion of EM spectrum that is already sparse. You also need to replace most of your payload design engineers - this is not an easy market.

      All in all, you'd probably be better off just starting at zero: less cost for throwing things out. The existing satellites would be space junk.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Saturday July 04 2020, @10:47AM

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Saturday July 04 2020, @10:47AM (#1016064) Journal

      UK buys £400m stake in bankrupt satellite rival to EU Galileo system []

      The UK government has pledged to invest $500m (£400m) in bankrupt satellite company OneWeb, giving it a stake in a business that provides broadband from space.

      [...] Downing Street said: “The deal will support the UK to be a pioneer in the research, development, manufacturing, and exploitation of novel satellite technologies, whilst boosting UK manufacturing.”

      [...] However, some space experts have raised concerns over the suitability of its technology for navigational purposes. The government had ambitions to create its own rival to the US’s global positioning system (GPS), although it had reportedly scaled back those plans. The UK has been barred from the EU’s Galileo system because of Brexit.

      Dr Bleddyn Bowen, a space policy expert at the University of Leicester, told the Guardian last week it was a “tech and business gamble” that the satellites could be redesigned to allow navigation. The existing major satellite navigational systems all use satellites orbiting about 20,000km from the Earth’s surface, compared with only 1,200km for low-Earth orbits.

      OneWeb’s network has been described as unsuitable for navigational purposes by the UK’s own space agency, according to internal documents cited by the Daily Telegraph. A spokesman for the agency declined to comment on the documents.

      [...] The deal will give the UK a “sovereign global satellite system”, as well as “strategic opportunities across a wide range of other applications”, the government said.

      I completely missed that detail, but there it is. If they manage to get a broadband constellation and global navigation out of one purchase (and an additional $3-$10 billion in funding probably), good for them I guess.

      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
    • (Score: 2) by stormreaver on Saturday July 04 2020, @10:56AM (2 children)

      by stormreaver (5101) on Saturday July 04 2020, @10:56AM (#1016066)

      At 650 satellites, there is no way it would even come close to competing with Starlink, so purchasing OneWeb would have to be for some other reason than providing global Internet.

      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Saturday July 04 2020, @12:17PM (1 child)

        by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Saturday July 04 2020, @12:17PM (#1016074) Journal

        SpaceX says it can start to become operational with about that many. Depending on what kind of service they offer and what kind of customers they target, they might be able to compete. Remember that SpaceX has a few different markets to target: rural internet users, the U.S. Army and Air Force, and financial customers (e.g. high speed New York to London links). There's also a different company [] that wants to target smartphones.

        OneWeb [] was also seeking permission to launch way more satellites:

        Prior to the bankruptcy, OneWeb had been considering nearly quadrupling the size of the satellite constellation over time by adding 1,972 additional satellites that it has priority spectrum rights to.

        Despite the bankruptcy process in the end of May 2020, OneWeb filed an application to FCC for increasing the number of satellites to 48,000.

        The big problem is that SpaceX is willing to aggressively launch satellites with cheap Falcon 9 rockets (they are including rideshare customers and recovering both fairing halves now), and would absolutely knock it out of the park with Starship.

        If OneWeb still wants to pursue ~48,000 satellites, it will probably end up paying money to its competitor to send them up with Starships.

        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
        • (Score: 2) by stormreaver on Saturday July 04 2020, @03:00PM

          by stormreaver (5101) on Saturday July 04 2020, @03:00PM (#1016129)

          OneWeb filed an application to FCC for increasing the number of satellites to 48,000.

          Thanks, I didn't know that. That would definitely put them into competition with Starlink, at least eventually.

          As you alluded, though, SpaceX will probably be the means by which OneWeb's satellites get into orbit, meaning that OneWeb will be helping to fund its competition for at least a while. That's a lot like Netflix using Amazon to host its content, which actually worked (still works?) well for Netflix.

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by looorg on Saturday July 04 2020, @12:49PM (1 child)

    by looorg (578) on Saturday July 04 2020, @12:49PM (#1016084)

    So the UK government is going to become a third world ISP? Is this some attempt to give the GCHQ (the UK version of the NSA) access to third world data?

    As a GPS alternative? They afraid that Uncle Sam will pull the plug again? The special friendship is running out? EU has Galileo, did the UK leave that to? Russians have Glonass and the Chinese have Beidou. I guess it's the cool super-power-wannabe thing to have now then -- your own GPS alternative.

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by takyon on Saturday July 04 2020, @02:16PM

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Saturday July 04 2020, @02:16PM (#1016108) Journal

      UK May Have to Deploy its Own Satellite Navigation System Due to Brexit []

      We already discussed the security implications in that article. Relying on a system controlled by the U.S., Russia, China, EU, etc. is not acceptable (so they say). So there will be another one (maybe). []

      In March 2018, the European Commission announced that the United Kingdom may be excluded from parts of the project (especially relating to the secured service PRS) following its exit from the European Union (EU). As a result, Airbus plans to relocate work on the Ground Control Segment (GCS) from its Portsmouth premises to an EU state. British officials have been reported to be seeking legal advice on whether they can reclaim the €1.4 billion invested by the United Kingdom, of the €10 billion spent to date. In a speech at the EU Institute for Security Studies conference, the EU Chief Negotiator in charge of the Brexit negotiations, Michel Barnier, stressed the EU position that the UK had decided to leave the EU and thus all EU programmes, including Galileo. In August 2018, it was reported the UK will look to create a competing satellite navigation system to Galileo post-Brexit. In December 2018, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that the UK would no longer seek to reclaim the investment, and Science Minister Sam Gyimah resigned over the matter.

      Yes, the UK got unceremoniously kicked out of the Galileo program. That was back in 2018, but it has remained a hotly debated issue this year.

      March 1: UK’s Galileo rival delayed amid wrangling and rising costs []
      May 8: Britain's £5 billion rival to EU's Galileo satellite project faces scrap []
      June 19: UK scales back plans for £5bn rival to Galileo satellite system []

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