UPDATE The London-based company OneWeb says it secured $1.4 billion in funding, enough to launch more satellites for its planned broadband delivery service. But it’s also reduced the number of satellites in its fleet.
The broadband satellite operator filed for bankruptcy in 2020 and received money from the U.K. government and Indian conglomerate Bharti, reported TechCrunch. OneWeb said Friday it closed on its latest funding, from SoftBank Group Corp. and Hughes Network Systems. SoftBank and Hughes are both past backers and partners in OneWeb.
OneWeb says the latest infusion is enough to launch the rest of its first-generation fleet of 648 satellites. The company launched 36 new satellites in December, bringing the total number in orbit to 110 satellites.
The company has “streamlined its constellation” and asked the FCC for fewer licenses. Originally OneWeb had applied to the agency for market access for 47,884 satellites; now the figure is down to 6,372.
“OneWeb’s mission is to connect everyone, everywhere. We have made rapid progress to re-start the business since emerging from Chapter 11 in November,” said company CEO Neil Masterson. “We welcome the investments by SoftBank and Hughes as further proof of progress towards delivering our goal.”
Hughes, meanwhile, invests via its parent company EchoStar, and signed a deal with the company in 2017 to build the terrestrial infrastructure that would work with OneWeb’s satellites. OneWeb confirmed the ground network is still being built by Hughes.
Originally, Hughes had planned for the first services to start running in 2019 — although that was when OneWeb and its fleet of LEO [low Earth orbit] satellites was still backed by $1.7 billion in venture funding, reported TechCrunch. The company’s original idea LEO satellites were proven to be a strong and useful complement to terrestrial networks for providing broadband connectivity to more remote areas that couldn’t be reached in other ways. OneWeb’s idea was to make that service useful for a larger group of on-the-ground users, promising 400 Mbps for everyone.