Eutelsat invests in OneWeb, future SpaceX rival

By Mathieu Rabechault,
Published by Space War, 27 April, 2021

Paris (AFP) – A year after collapsing into bankruptcy, satellite operator OneWeb has revived its goal of providing broadband satellite internet service after European operator Eutelsat said Tuesday it would invest $550 million in the project.

Eutelsat’s “roughly 24 percent” stake will allow OneWeb to position itself as a rival to Elon Musk’s SpaceX as Eutelsat joins the British government and Indian multinational Bharti Global as a key shareholder.

Bharti Global is active in telecoms, agribusiness and financial services.

“OneWeb will be the first complete non-geostationary constellation with truly global coverage, significantly ahead of competing projects,” Eutelsat said in a statement.

Britain and Bharti Global came aboard after One Web collapsed into chapter 11 bankruptcy when former backer Softbank of Japan withdrew its support.

The new stakeholders each invested half a billion dollars when they took over the reconstituted company.

OneWeb plans to deploy 648 low-orbit satellites to offer broadband internet to around 90 per cent of the planet.

To date it has launched 182, including 36 on Monday.

The satellites are made in Florida in partnership with aerospace firm Airbus, according to OneWeb.

Britain seeks a post-Brexit alternative to the European Union’s Galileo satellite navigation project into which it invested heavily prior to leaving the bloc.

OneWeb’s service is to begin in some regions by year’s end, with global rollout expected by the end of 2022.

Eutelsat said the project “anticipates annual revenues of circa $1 billion within three to five years following the full deployment of the constellation, with a partnership approach and profitable wholesale business model.”

Its investment “leaves OneWeb almost fully funded and the company is well advanced in terms of securing its remaining funding needs this year”.

Eutelsat director general Rodolphe Belmer hailed a “substantial opportunity represented by the non-geostationary segment within our industry.”

British Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Today’s investment is another giant leap forward for OneWeb in realising its ambition to provide global broadband connectivity around the globe.”

He added that the project would place the UK “at the forefront of the latest developments in low Earth orbit technology.”

OneWeb Executive Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal hailed a deal which he said would see partners benefit “from the entrepreneurial energy of Bharti, extensive global outreach of UK and long-term expertise of the satellite industry at Eutelsat.”

FCC approves SpaceX’s satellite modification despite competitor objections
Washington DC (UPI) Apr 27, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission approved Tuesday SpaceX’s satellite modification plan despite objections from competitors, who complained it would disrupt networks.

SpaceX made the proposal a year ago, asking to modify its plan for Starlink satellites designed to deliver high-speed Internet to consumers across the globe.

The Starlink license modification plan was to change the altitude of the next 2,814 satellites to 570 km after the first 1,584 satellites were in orbit at an altitude above 1,100 km. The company said the changes were in the public interest and addressed space safety.

The plan came under fire in complaints from Kuiper, a subsidiary of Amazon that plans to build satellite Internet service to rival Starlink, and global satellite competitor Viasat, among others. They said the public interest benefits were unsubstantiated and the plan would interfere with other satellite systems.

The dispute became public earlier this year when SpaceX Chief Designer Elon Musk alleged in a tweet the competition was attempting “to hamstring Starlink,” in response to a CNBC report.

The FCC wrote in the order that the “modification does not create significant interference problems that would warrant treatment of SpaceX’s system as if it were filed in a later processing round.”

“We conclude that grant of the SpaceX Third Modification Application will serve the public interest,” the FCC also wrote in the order. “Our action will allow SpaceX to implement safety-focused changes to the deployment of its satellite constellation to deliver broadband service throughout the United States, including to those who live in areas underserved or unserved by terrestrial systems.”

The FCC order requires SpaceX to issue reports twice a year that include conjunction events or near misses with other satellites within the last six months.

Despite its objections, Amazon called the FCC’s ruling “a positive outcome,” in a statement to CNBC since it “places clear conditions on SpaceX.”

“These conditions address our primary concerns regarding space safety and interference, and we appreciate the Commission’s work to maintain a safe and competitive environment in low earth orbit,” Amazon added.

See: Original Article