OneWeb bags US$500m funding for worldwide internet service

26 Jun 2015

Amid the four-way race to provide the entire planet with an affordable internet service, OneWeb has raised US$500m for its project to send satellites into orbit, beaming down our connectivity.

“The dream of fully bridging the digital divide is on track to be a reality in 2019,” said Greg Wyler, founder of OneWeb, upon announcing the news.

OneWeb is in direct competition with tech giants SpaceX, Google and Facebook to provide internet access to some of the world’s most elusive places.

“We are committed to solving one of the world’s biggest problems – enabling affordable broadband internet access for everyone,” said Wyler, who sits on the board with Richard Branson (Virgin), Thomas Enders (Airbus), Sunil Mittal (Bharti Enterprises) and Paul Jacobs (Qualcomm).

“We are excited about the next phase, which will involve working with countries, telecom operators and aid organisations to help them realise their goals of open and ubiquitous access.”

OneWeb satellites: In the hundreds

Having previously raised up to US$2bn from investors like Virgin and Qualcomm, OneWeb wants to send 648 satellites into orbit – Virgin being the company getting them up there.

A total of 900 will be built (including spares kept on Earth), with today’s funding announcement including news of its largest commercial rocket acquisition ever – more than 65 rockets including 21 Soyuz launch orders from Arianespace and 39 launches from Virgin Galactic’s LauncherOne.

Google’s Project Loon, Facebook’s and SpaceX’s own internet satellites – the latter of which should be the most direct competition to the LauncherOne programme – are amid their own drive.

OneWeb satellites: Embrace the sun

OneWeb’s satellites are optionally solar powered, and with their embedded LTE, 3G, 2G and Wi-Fi access capabilities will extend the mobile operator’s reach.

The network will also provide unprecedented speeds and low latency access to ships, planes, trains and oil platforms, while providing seamless interoperability with Intelsat’s fleet of Ku band satellites.

“Together with our committed and visionary founding shareholders we have the key elements in place: regulatory, technology, launches, satellites, as well as commercial operators in over 50 countries and territories,” said Wyler.

Main image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic