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.
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.
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.
OneWeb, the London-based venture that launched its latest batch of broadband internet satellites last weekend, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York today.
“The company intends to use these proceedings to pursue a sale of its business in order to maximize the value of the company,” OneWeb said in a news release.
OneWeb has 74 satellites in low Earth orbit, and half of its 44 planned ground stations have been completed or are in development. It was planning to begin offering broadband internet access in the Arctic as soon as this year, and broaden its service to the entire globe with hundreds of satellites over the next year or so. All those plans are now up in the air.
OneWeb’s third batch of satellites for its broadband internet constellation was lofted into orbit today on a Russian Soyuz rocket launched from Kazakhstan with the aid of Europe’s Arianespace consortium.
Filings with the Federal Communications Commission are providing fresh details about the plans being laid by Amazon and OneWeb to set up networks of satellites for global broadband internet access.
OneWeb, for example, is seeking FCC approval for up to 1.5 million ground terminals that customers would use to receive and transmit satellite data.
Amazon, meanwhile, is answering questions from the FCC about how the satellites in its Project Kuiper constellation would be maneuvered and deorbited. The answers make clear that Project Kuiper’s satellite design is still very much in flux.
That’s in contrast to SpaceX, which has already launched 60 of its Starlink satellites and is expected to send another batch into orbit as early as this month.
SpaceX, Amazon and OneWeb are considered the leading competitors in the nascent market to offer high-speed internet access from low Earth orbit, or LEO, to the billions of people who are currently underserved. Other players in the LEO broadband market include Telesat and LeoSat.
One of the world’s biggest satellite operators, Intelsat, is accusing the OneWeb broadband satellite venture and its biggest investor, SoftBank, of breach of contract, fraud and conspiracy in a lawsuit seeking what could amount to tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.
In the course of laying out its case, Intelsat told the New York State Supreme Court that it paid Redmond, Wash.-based Kymeta, a venture backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, $10 million for development of a flat-panel antenna for OneWeb’s constellation.
Intelsat’s Sept. 10 filing also said OneWeb has pivoted from its original plan to provide broadband access to underserved regions of the world to concentrate on the very markets that Intelsat was planning to serve under the terms of the deal it struck in 2015 with OneWeb: maritime and aviation mobility services, oil and gas industry services and government services.
The lawsuit claims that OneWeb decided to “abandon its business plan of focusing on consumer broadband, land-based connectivity and underserved geographic markets because OneWeb and/or SoftBank concluded such plan would not yield sufficient revenues and was not viable in the long term.”
OneWeb says it’ll start delivering broadband internet service to the Arctic via satellite in 2020, turning the “Last Frontier” into a new frontier for data beamed from orbit.
The London-based company provided fresh details about its market rollout today, saying that it will deliver fiber-like connectivity amounting to 375 gigabits per second of data transmission capacity above the 60th parallel north by the end of next year.
That area takes in most of Alaska as well as Canada’s Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, plus parts of Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador. It also encompasses Greenland, Iceland and parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. (The Arctic Circle is a little higher up, at about 66.5 degrees north.)
The international OneWeb consortium says it’s raised another $1.25 billion in funding for its internet satellite constellation, ensuring a ramp-up in its production and launch campaign with the aim of offering high-speed global access by 2021.
OneWeb says its new capital infusion is coming from Japan-based SoftBank Group, Mexico-based Grupo Salinas, Qualcomm Technologies and the Rwandan government — and will bring total investment to $3.4 billion.