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Kymeta and OneWeb strike deal on satellite broadband

Redmond, Wash.-based Kymeta Corp., the mobile connectivity company backed by Bill Gates, has signed a distribution partner agreement with OneWeb to offer satellite broadband services around the globe.

The agreement clears the way for Kymeta to resell OneWeb services in conjunction with fixed-site and mobile hardware solutions to government and commercial customers globally.

Today’s announcement comes as Kymeta sharpens its focus on commercial, government and military customers — and as OneWeb copes with challenges related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Just three months ago, the two companies agreed to adapt Kymeta’s u8 flat-panel antenna system to support communications with OneWeb’s satellite constellation in low Earth orbit, or LEO, with an eye toward bringing the system to market by the end of this year.

But that was before Russian forces invaded Ukraine, setting off a cascade of economic sanctions and broken business ties. Russia’s Soyuz rockets, which have launched all 428 of the OneWeb satellites currently in orbit, are no longer an option. This month, Russia canceled a scheduled launch and seized 36 of OneWeb’s satellites when the venture refused to change its British-Indian ownership structure and guarantee that the satellites wouldn’t be used for military purposes.

This week, OneWeb announced a deal to have future satellites launched on SpaceX’s rockets. That deal is unusual, because OneWeb’s broadband service is arguably a competitor for SpaceX’s Starlink service. Starlink is already available in selected markets — including Ukraine — while OneWeb hasn’t yet begun service.

In today’s announcement, Kymeta and OneWeb talked up the promise of satellite-based mobile connectivity.

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GeekWire

Kymeta and OneWeb move ahead with satellite terminals

Kymeta Corp., the antenna venture backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, has signed onto a joint development agreement with OneWeb to develop a flat-panel user terminal for OneWeb’s global satellite internet network.

The plan calls for modifying Kymeta’s u8 antenna system for fixed-terminal applications on land, with an eye toward supporting additional applications including mobile service in land-based and maritime settings.

Today’s announcement comes just weeks after Redmond, Wash.-based Kymeta and OneWeb reported a successful test of Kymeta’s u8 technology, which takes advantage of an exotic category of electronics known as metamaterials. The technology makes it possible to “steer” an antenna electronically rather than physically moving it.

OneWeb is one of several ventures that is creating satellite constellations in low Earth orbit, or LEO, to broaden access to broadband internet service. SpaceX’s Starlink service is furthest along, but OneWeb is planning to begin limited service in the Arctic within the next few months. The plan calls for Kymeta’s terminals to enter the market as an option by the third quarter of 2022.

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GeekWire

Kymeta hooks up with OneWeb’s internet satellites

Redmond, Wash.-based Kymeta Corp., the mobile connectivity company backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, has joined forces with OneWeb to test satellite broadband services that make use of Kymeta’s u8 flat-panel antenna system.

“I’m very happy to report back that the tests were fantastic,” Neville Meijers, Kymeta’s chief strategy and marketing officer, told me. “Both sets of management were extremely pleased with the performance of the antenna.”

Meijers said that the tests of satellite acquisition, tracking and throughput — conducted in July in Toulouse, France — should bode well for providing always-there mobile connectivity for first responders as well as for government, military and enterprise customers.

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GeekWire

Critics take aim at broadband satellite constellations

SpaceX, Amazon and OneWeb say their satellite mega-constellations will make broadband internet goodness available to billions of people around the world who are unserved or underserved — but some say those promises have to be weighed against the potential perils.

These critics cite the risk of catastrophic satellite collisions, concerns about cybersecurity and worries about environmental and health impacts  — including impacts on astronomical observations and the beauties of the night sky.

Such concerns are likely to intensify as SpaceX and OneWeb add to their current fleets of satellites in low Earth orbit, and as Amazon gets set to deploy more than 3,200 satellites for its Project Kuiper broadband network. If all the plans laid out for those ventures come to pass, tens of thousands of satellites could be put into orbit over the next decade.

Early today, SpaceX sent its latest batch of 60 Starlink satellites into orbit, bringing the total number of satellites launched to 1,265.

The latest challenge to the mega-constellations was filed today with the Federal Communications Commission. A coalition of policy groups is calling on the FCC to put a 180-day hold on further approvals for broadband data satellite deployments, in order to conduct a more thoroughgoing assessment of the risks.

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Cosmic Space

OneWeb adds 36 satellites to revived constellation

Less than a month after emerging from bankruptcy, OneWeb resumed its campaign to provide global satellite internet access today with the successful launch and deployment of 36 satellites.

The satellites were sent into low Earth orbit by a Soyuz rocket that lifted off from Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Russian Far East at 12:26 GMT (4:26 a.m. PT). Nine batches of satellites were dropped off in their target orbits over the course of nearly four hours, and OneWeb confirmed signal acquisition for all 36 satellites.

This was the first fully commercial launch from Russia’s Vostochny complex. Europe’s Arianespace consortium managed launch logistics.

Today’s operation brings OneWeb’s constellation to 110 satellites, with hundreds more due for launch in the months ahead. OneWeb says it’s back on track to provide broadband data services to customers in northern latitudes — including Alaska, Britain, Canada and northern Europe — during 2021, with global service to follow in 2022.

OneWeb’s prime rivals in the market for satellite internet services from low Earth orbit are SpaceX, which has already launched nearly 1,000 satellites and is offering limited beta service; Telesat, a Canadian satellite operator targeting the start of service in 2022; and Amazon’s Project Kuiper, which is aiming for a debut in the mid-2020s.

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GeekWire

British-Indian team buys OneWeb network for $1B

Update for 12:20 p.m. Nov. 20: OneWeb has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy with a new CEO, Neil Masterson, who was formerly co-chief operating officer at Thomson Reuters. The British government announced the completion of OneWeb’s acquisition in partnership with Bharti Global.

Previously: The British government and Bharti Global Ltd., which is part of the world’s third-largest mobile operator, have successfully bid more than $1 billion to acquire the bankrupt OneWeb satellite broadband internet venture.

London-based OneWeb said the deal, resulting from an auction held this week in New York, will enable it to resume plans to add to its 74-satellite constellation and offer global internet access from above, starting with the Arctic.

The sale still has to be approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and regulatory authorities, but the transaction is expected to close late this year.

“With differentiated and flexible technology, unique spectrum assets and a compelling market opportunity ahead of us, we are eager to conclude the process and get back to launching our satellites as soon as possible,” OneWeb CEO Adrian Steckel said today in a news release.

The deal breathes new life into a rival of SpaceX’s Starlink constellation, which already has more than 500 satellites in orbit and could begin limited service this year. OneWeb is also perceived as a competitor of Amazon’s Project Kuiper, which is working out the regulatory requirements for putting more than 3,000 satellites in orbit for a global broadband internet network.

At one point, Amazon was rumored to be interested in bidding on OneWeb’s assets, including its spectrum licenses, but nothing came of those rumors.

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GeekWire

Britain gives its backing to OneWeb satellite bid

The likeliest purchaser of the bankrupt OneWeb broadband satellite venture isn’t Amazon, but a consortium backed by the British government. That’s according to satellite industry watchers cited by Space Intel Report and The Financial Times.

Amazon, which is working on its own Project Kuiper satellite constellation, was said to be among the entities that expressed interest in bidding on OneWeb’s assets after the London-based satellite concern declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March. OneWeb said the market disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic spoiled arrangements to win further financial support from SoftBank group, one of its biggest backers, forcing the move to seek financial protection.

OneWeb’s assets were put up for sale under the supervision of U.S. bankruptcy court in New York. Bids were due to be opened today for an initial round of assessment. If there’s no clear winner in the eyes of the judge and OneWeb’s creditors, an auction would be held on July 2.

The Financial Times quoted its sources as saying the British government was willing to put up about $617 million (£500 million) as part of a wider private-sector consortium bid. If the bid is successful, the government could end up owning more than 20% of OneWeb, according to The Financial Times.

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GeekWire

OneWeb applies to put 48,000 satellites in orbit

Image: Satellite web
An artist’s conception shows a constellation of satellites in orbit. (Credit: OneWeb)

Even though the OneWeb satellite venture is going through bankruptcy and a potential sale, it filed an application overnight with the Federal Communications Commission to expand its planned broadband internet constellation to as many as 48,000 satellites.

Get the news brief on GeekWire.

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GeekWire

Amazon reportedly signs up for OneWeb auction

OneWeb satellite
An artist’s conception shows one of OneWeb’s satellites in orbit. (OneWeb Satellites Illustration)

Amazon is among the players in a bankruptcy bidding game with the assets of the OneWeb satellite venture at stake, according to Space Intel Report.

Quoting unnamed industry officials, Space Intel Report’s Peter B. de Selding says other potential bidders include two Chinese organizations that are apparently acting on behalf of the Chinese government; the Paris-based satellite operator Eutelsat, which apparently has the backing of the French government and several other European Union member states; and Cerberus Capital Management, a New York-based private equity firm with interesting connections.

Space Intel Report also quotes the officials as saying that SpaceX was among those expressing interest, but SpaceX CEO Elon Musk denied that was the case. “Not SpaceX,” Musk wrote in a tweet.

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GeekWire

Report: Amazon checking out OneWeb’s assets

Image: Satellite web
An artist’s conception shows a constellation of satellites in orbit. (Credit: OneWeb)

London’s Telegraph newspaper reports that Amazon is understood to be among the entities sifting through the assets of OneWeb, a venture that began building a constellation of broadband internet satellites but filed for bankruptcy in March.

Amazon’s interest has to do with its plans to create its own broadband constellation, known as Project Kuiper. The most attractive assets that OneWeb has to offer would arguably be its rights to radio frequency spectrum and its access to the U.S. market — advantages that Amazon currently lacks.

Among the other entities looking at OneWeb’s assets, according to the Space Intel Report, are SpaceX, Eutelsat and the British government.

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