OneWeb, a British startup, has successfully launched the final batch of satellites needed for its broadband service, bringing its total constellation to 618 satellites. The additional 36 satellites were launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India, on Sunday morning. OneWeb plans to offer worldwide coverage by the end of the year, with high-speed, low latency broadband connectivity to all ocean-going vessels, aircraft, and hard-to-reach areas like deserts, forests, and mountains.
Founded in 2012, OneWeb aims to deliver high-speed internet connectivity to the Earth from a network of low-Earth orbit satellites at an altitude of around 750 miles. The company plans to launch 648 satellites in total, of which 588 satellites are required for global coverage. The remaining satellites will serve as spares that can step in if some other satellites on the network go rogue.
OneWeb is up against tough competition, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Amazon, and Inmarsat. Starlink, the space internet unit of Musk’s SpaceX, has already launched thousands of satellites to provide network connectivity to areas with patchy internet. OneWeb Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said that OneWeb has “some catching up to do” but added that the firm is seeing “robust” demand from its target markets, which include North America, Europe, the Middle East, South Asia, Australia, Latin America, and Africa.
OneWeb is currently generating revenue in the millions of dollars every month and expects to one day attract hundreds of millions of dollars of income. Unlike Starlink, which sells broadband packages to consumers, OneWeb is targeting enterprise clients. The company has done deals with major telecoms firms including Australia’s Telstra and France’s Orange. By the end of February, OneWeb had dozens of customers across 15 countries.
OneWeb was rescued from bankruptcy in a $1 billion financing package backed by the U.K. government and Indian telecommunications conglomerate Bharti Global. In the face of numerous setbacks, including the inability to launch satellites from Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, OneWeb has continued to pull in hundreds of millions of dollars of investment from previous backers SoftBank to fuel its costly ambition of delivering from space.
Following the deal’s completion, OneWeb plans to pursue a secondary listing on the London Stock Exchange. The government holds a 20% stake in OneWeb and is its second-largest shareholder. After the transaction with Eutelsat, the government will retain some control through a “special share” that grants it a say on the location of future OneWeb launches and the national security safeguards the firm has in place.