Starlink rival OneWeb sends final satellites in orbit to offer global internet

The firm is a famous rival of Starlink.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Satellites in orbit.jpg
Satellites in orbit.


OneWeb has finally put to orbit the last 36 satellites of its initial 616-satellite “constellation,” a milestone Chief Executive Officer Neil Masterson told Bloomberg is the “fruition of an enormous amount of hard work.”

He added that the firm has “been through some geopolitical issues over the last year or so, and the team has proven to be extremely resilient and caught up.” 

OneWeb is now ready to offer broadband to businesses and government clients in the lower 48 U.S. states in May. The firm also hopes to bring global coverage to the masses by the end of 2023, Masterson said.

“OneWeb has a strong social purpose to improve the world’s access to information. It has great talent, a compelling commercial opportunity, and is supported by committed and knowledgeable owners and investors,” says a quote by Masterson on the firm’s website.

The company was founded a decade ago by serial space entrepreneur Greg Wyler but had a difficult path. OneWeb filed for bankruptcy in March 2020 after being cut off from credit markets by the economic disturbances caused by COVID-19.

The UK government and Indian telecom tycoon Sunil Mittal’s Bharti Group then restored the firm, and it has since had better luck, attracting investment from SoftBank Group Corp., South Korean conglomerate Hanwha Systems Co. and US firm Hughes Satellite Systems Corp.

Last July, it merged with French satellite firm Eutelsat SA.

The firm now boasts $900 million in contracted revenues and has ambitious plans to break even by 2025, Masterson said. In the works is also a second wave of hundreds of extra satellites. 

Removing barriers to connectivity

On its website, OneWeb says it “exists to remove the barriers to connectivity that are holding economies and communities back.”

“A digital divide persists, with three billion people around the world denied access to reliable terrestrial infrastructure. Going digital is a stepchange that divides many more, on the basis of affordability, speed, reliability, and digital literacy. Rural or hard to reach communities especially cannot access the broadband connectivity (min 25Mbps) that others rely on for interactive, simultaneous communications at work, at school, for health, or for home,” the company further notes.

OneWeb is currently the second biggest low-earth orbit system after Elon Musk’s Starlink which has more than 3,000 satellites in orbit. 

However, Masterson denies any rivalry with SpaceX, pointing out to Bloomberg that Musk’s firm targets consumers while OneWeb is focused on enterprise and government clients. OneWeb has also used SpaceX’s services in the past to send to space its own satellites.

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