OneWeb Gains Additional $500m Funding From Bharti

Busy period for OneWeb with additional funding, launch of more satellites, and signing deal with BT for rural broadband provision

Satellite internet firm OneWeb has had a very busy week, that included it securing an additional $500 million in funding.

The firm announced that Bharti Global (Bharti) had exercised a Call Option under existing shareholders’ agreement to invest an additional $500m into the venture.

This funding comes on the one year anniversary, when in July 2020 the British government, alongside Indian conglomerate Bharti Global Ltd, revealed they would acquire OneWeb for $1 billion.

More funding

OneWeb was then officially brought out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November last year.

OneWeb had gone into administration in March 2020, despite raising $3 billion (£2.4bn) in venture funding since its founding, and putting 74 satellites into orbit.

The firm had made the decision to file for bankruptcy protection (Chapter 11) in the United States as the Coronavirus lockdown began, after it ran out of cash and failed to secure additional funding.

But now those bad days seem far behind, when OneWeb this week said it had secured further fund-raising with the exercise of a Call Option by Bharti to invest an additional $500m into the company.

This has brought its total funding to $2.4 billion since its emergence from Chapter 11.

It should be remembered that in April this year, French satellite operator Eutelsat had acquired a 24 percent stake in OneWeb when it ploughed a $550m investment into the venture.

This means that following the Bharti’s latest funding investment, it will hold 38.6 percent of OneWeb. The UK Government, Eutelsat, and Softbank will each own 19.3 percent.

“OneWeb represents a unique opportunity for investors at a key moment in the commercialisation of space,” noted OneWeb executive chairman, Sunil Bharti Mittal. “With its Global ITU LEO Spectrum priority, Telco partnerships, successful launch momentum, and reliable satellites, OneWeb is ready to serve the vital needs of high-speed broadband connectivity for those who have been left behind. Nation states can accelerate their universal service obligations, Telcos, their backhaul, and Enterprise/Governments can serve remote installations.”

Satellite launches

The new investment will help OneWeb launch more commercial satellites into space.

On Thursday OneWeb announced that it had successfully launched another 36 satellites into orbit.

This takes OneWeb’s in-orbit constellation to 254 satellites, or 40 percent of its planned fleet of 648 LEO satellites.

“With this major milestone, the Company is ready to deliver connectivity across the United Kingdom, Canada, Alaska, Northern Europe, Greenland, and the Arctic Region,” said the firm.

“This latest launch of OneWeb satellites will put high-speed broadband within reach of the whole Northern Hemisphere later this year, including improving connectivity in the remotest parts of the UK,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

BT agreement

And that was not the end of announcements from OneWeb this week.

On Tuesday OneWeb had announced that it and BT had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), to explore the provision of improved digital communication services to some of the hardest to reach parts of the UK.

As part of the discussions, the companies will consider opportunities to deliver OneWeb’s connectivity services from low Earth orbit to businesses and communities around the UK, as well as identifying collaboration opportunities to develop new services beyond UK’s shores for BT’s global customers.

“This partnership is a huge sign of progress in the resilience and advancement of the overall telecom infrastructure in the UK,” said OneWeb’s CEONeil Masterson. “OneWeb’s network will be a vital means for bridging the last digital divides across the network and we are excited to be part of the solution with BT to expand the nation’s digital infrastructure.”

“Our ambitious full fibre and mobile commitments have put BT at the forefront of efforts to expand digital connectivity across the U,” added Philip Jansen, chief executive of BT. “It is clear that greater partnership is needed, both with Government and within industry, to ensure connectivity can reach every last corner of the country. Our agreement with OneWeb is an important step to understanding how that goal could be achieved in the future.”

Unlike SpaceX’s Starlink, OneWeb intends to sell its connectivity services to governments and corporate customers that provide internet service to airplanes, ships and boats.

It will eventually sell bandwidth to consumer-facing internet providers, as evidenced with the BT deal.