OneWeb’s $500M in Equity Should Silence Doubters

The broadband space race heats up as start-up satellite Internet provider OneWeb LLC announced on June 25th that it had raised half a billion dollars in equity from notable sources running the gamut from Coca-Cola to Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. The equity raised will help fund OneWeb’s goal of establishing a constellation of 600 satellites in Earth’s orbit in a move to provide low-cost Internet access to underserved markets.

In addition to Coca-Cola and Virgin Group, the OneWeb investor lineup features:

  • Airbus Group, which has an agreement with OneWeb to produce 900 OneWeb satellites, with the majority being built in the USA
  • Qualcomm Inc., the leading San Diego, California-based semiconductor fabricator whose chip design will be utilized for OneWeb’s hubs and user terminals
  • Hughes Network Systems, a Germantown, Maryland-based satellite broadband terminal manufacturer for the consumer and enterprise markets
  • Bharti Enterprises, an Indian conglomerate whose businesses span the retail, telecommunications, financial services, and manufacturing sectors
  • Totalplay, a Mexican cable television subscription, Internet, and telecommunications company
  • Intelsat, a Luxembourg-based provider of satellite communication services

In addition to the impressive fundraising, the British Channel Islands-based OneWeb stated that it has landed two lucrative contracts in what it calls the “largest commercial rocket acquisition ever made” with the European space launch consortium Arianespace and Virgin Galactic for the start-up’s services. The Pasadena, California-based Virgin Galactic inked a deal with OneWeb for 39 launches on its not yet completed LauncherOne rocket. The France-based Arianespace tapped OneWeb for 21 launches on its Soyuz expendable launch systems.

With a prospective launch date in 2017, the OneWeb microsatellites will be utilized mainly to provide broadband connection to markets that do not have Internet access and other mobile services.

"The dream of fully bridging the digital divide is on track to be a reality in 2019," said Greg Wyler, OneWeb's founder, in a statement.

“We are not against GEO or MEO systems,” Wyler said. “The addition of Intelsat should demonstrate that. The idea is to get Internet out everywhere on the planet. GEO and MEO and LEO systems can work together for this.”

OneWeb’s competition in the Internet space race comes from industry players like Mountain View, California-based Google and Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX.

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