Saturday, June 27, 2015

OneWeb Signs $500 Million Deal with Aerospace Giants to Build Global Satellite Network

OneWeb CEO Greg Wyler (left), Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël (center) and Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group (right) at the contract signing on June 25, 2015. Credit: Stéphane Israël

OneWeb company, which is building a new global communications system to create affordable broadband services for all, announced Thursday that 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, Totalplay, a Grupo Salinas Company, owned by Ricardo B. Salinas, and Virgin Group. Following the announcement on June 15 of its joint venture with Airbus Defence and Space (pending regulatory approvals) to design and manufacture its first 900 microsatellites, OneWeb also announced the largest commercial rocket acquisition ever of more than 65 rockets including 21 Soyuz launch orders from Arianespace and 39 launches from Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne.

“The dream of fully bridging the digital divide is on track to be a reality in 2019,” said Greg Wyler, founder of OneWeb. “Together with our committed and visionary founding shareholders we have the key elements in place: regulatory, technology, launches, satellites, as well as commercial operators in over 50 countries and territories. We are committed to solving one of the world’s biggest problems – enabling affordable broadband Internet access for everyone. We are excited about the next phase, which will involve working with countries, telecom operators and aid organizations to help them realize their goals of open and ubiquitous access.”

This funding allows OneWeb to further develop key technologies to enable affordable broadband for rural and underdeveloped locations. The OneWeb User Terminals are optionally solar powered, and with their embedded LTE, 3G, 2G and Wifi access capabilities will extend the mobile operator’s reach. The network will also provide unprecedented speeds and low latency access to ships, planes, trains and oil platforms while providing seamless interoperability with Intelsat’s fleet of Ku band satellites.

The first launch will take place in late 2017 and the full deployment will be completed by the end of 2019. Arianespace will utilize the Soyuz launch pads from Guiana Space Center, Baikonur and additional launch pads from Russia to ensure the timely deployment. The unique capability of being able to achieve near polar orbit from multiple launch sites using a common launcher along with its proven industrial production were instrumental in the Soyuz selection as a key resource to deploy the constellation on schedule.

The optional Ariane 6 launches will be available to OneWeb starting in 2021 to support the replenishment of the constellation and to allow the transition to the next generation of the OneWeb constellation. OneWeb satellites will weigh less than 150kg. The system will bring more than 10 Tbps of new capacity to rural areas around the globe.

Once the contract had been signed, Stéphane Israël, Chairman and CEO of Arianespace, made the following statement: "We consider it a great honor to play such an important role in the deployment of this innovative constellation. First, the trust placed by OneWeb in Arianespace is simply exceptional, considering the scope of the contract and the stakes it entails. Second, the goal of this constellation, which is to provide mankind with global connectivity everywhere on the planet, is fully in line with one of our main values: bring space down to Earth for the benefit of all. Many thanks to OneWeb for making Arianespace part of such an exciting project!"

Sunil Bharti Mittal, Founder and Chairman of Bharti Enterprises and Tom Enders, CEO of Airbus Group, will be joining Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, Dr. Paul Jacobs, Executive Chairman of Qualcomm Incorporated, and Greg Wyler, founder of OneWeb, on the Board of Directors. Each of the other founding shareholders, who will also be Board observers, will continue to advise the company and support the programme directly through provision of technical and manufacturing expertise, launch capabilities, and enabling access to potential customers.

“Our vision is to make the Internet affordable for everyone, connecting remote areas to rest of the world and helping to raise living standards and prosperity in some of the poorest regions today,” said Richard Branson. “We believe that OneWeb, together with Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne satellite launch system, has the capability to make this a reality.” Barclays acted as exclusive placement agent to OneWeb.

“We’re very excited to be part of OneWeb’s endeavor to provide global Internet access for everybody, everywhere. Whether at some remote place on earth or flying high on an Airbus aircraft, you’ll be connected: a grand proposition for mankind and a sound business opportunity for us! We are committed to giving our full industrial and space expertise to this mission,” said Tom Enders, CEO of Airbus Group.

“Intelsat provides more satellite broadband connectivity to more users than any other company. From villages and governments, to enterprises and communications providers, Intelsat has witnessed firsthand the economic growth and value creation that result from access to reliable communications,” said Stephen Spengler, CEO of Intelsat S.A. “Our role in the commercial space sector is to push for innovations that can drive increased performance, economics and simple access for our users. Intelsat has the world’s largest fleet of Ku Band geostationary satellites and our interoperability will enable pole-to-pole and urban canyon coverage with new services that further our goal of a connected world.”

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