OneWeb satellite internet company is officially reborn

Graphic: The goal is to have the entire satellite network by 2022
The OneWeb satellite operator has officially emerged from bankruptcy.
Ownership has been transferred to a new company whose main shareholders are the British government and the Indian conglomerate Bharti Global Ltd. are.
The new holding company takes ownership of all of the operator's assets, including the 74 satellites in orbit and all of the ground infrastructure to support them.
This means the London-based company can now move on to building its broadband mega-constellation.
Sunil Bharti Mittal, founder and chairman of Bharti Global, said it was very gratifying to see the months of hard work put into the purchase come to an end.
"It's very good business. If you have to roll the dice, that's best," he told BBC News.
"I come from the world of telecommunications. For me this is the next frontier."
OneWeb's plan is to air 648 spaceships to provide Internet connectivity to nearly all land and sea surfaces around the globe.
The next 36 satellites have already been sent from a factory in Florida to the Russian cosmodrome in Vostochny for launch from a Soyuz rocket, which is currently scheduled for December 17th.
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The components are believed to be in place for an additional three batches, and the new owners have been busy restoring old supply chains for the past few weeks to bring production fully up to pre-bankruptcy levels.
OneWeb filed for Chapter 11 protection in the US in March after its largest shareholder at the time, Japanese technology financier Softbank, withdrew from further investments in the project.
The tender process to collect the assets, including the radio frequencies used by the constellation, was won by a consortium led by the London government and Bharti, both of whom are investing $ 500 million in the reborn company.
The sale, approved by a U.S. federal court last month, will result in OneWeb resuming trading and wiping out its old debts.
The announcement of the closing of the sale on Friday goes hand in hand with the appointment of a new CEO. It will be Neil Masterson, formerly Co-Chief Operating Officer at business information provider Thomson Reuters. The previous CEO of OneWeb, the experienced telecommunications manager Adrián Steckel, will continue to act as advisor to the Board of Directors.
Mr. Masterson, currently based in New York, is returning to London to take on his new role.
"I look forward to helping the OneWeb team realize and market their vision to bring Internet access to the world," he said in a statement.
"OneWeb has a strong social mission to improve global access to the information I share. It has great talent, a compelling business opportunity, and is backed by dedicated and knowledgeable owners and investors."
The UK government's involvement in bailing out the company was controversial. Critics wondered why ministers would invest so much money in what remained risky. Economy Minister Alok Sharma even had to issue a "ministerial order" to move the investment after officials raised their objection.
However, proponents of the OneWeb connection see great opportunities in the satellite constellation to provide a range of services that go beyond the internet connection.
Such a service would include precise positioning, navigation and timing, a skill that the government would like to establish in some form after the end of its partnership in the European Union's Galileo navigation project after Brexit.
The priority is to launch the first generation satellites
But such a service would be quite a path. The priority for the new OneWeb company must be to expand its first generation broadband network.
The goal is to achieve coverage in the northern hemisphere to a latitude of around 50 degrees (which would cover the UK) by the next year, with the full constellation in place the following year. The French rocket company Arianespace booked 16 launches to facilitate the launch.
However, the project will need more money to achieve its goals.
"We will need a total of around US $ 2 to 2.25 billion in fresh money to complete this constellation," said Sunil Bharti Mittal.
"It is important that we have frequency priority. In my industry, the spectrum is the most valuable in my experience. And this company has the highest priority for the Ku spectrum worldwide."
OneWeb's main competitor in the mega-constellation game is Starlink, which is founded by the California rocket company SpaceX.
Starlink, which currently has over 700 satellites in orbit (its network architecture requires more satellites than OneWeb), has already begun beta testing with customers.
However, the two projects follow very different business models. OneWeb will work with partner telecommunications companies to deliver its broadband connections, while Starlink will sell direct to the consumer.
The European aerospace giant Airbus will be an important industrial partner in the future. The company already has a stake in the Florida factory after designing the first generation satellites, and the UK arm of the company has its eyes set on helping develop future capabilities.
"The UK's vision of investing in OneWeb will not only help deliver high-speed internet connectivity around the world, it also offers the potential for high-precision navigation and timekeeping," said Richard Franklin, Managing Director of Airbus Defense and Space UK .
"Early research at Airbus and a number of other key experts indicated that future OneWeb low-earth orbit satellites could offer greater national resilience and a huge advance in the infrastructure required for the adoption of truly autonomous vehicles - land, air and sea is.
"This is one area where the UK could now lead the world by taking the opportunity to be at the forefront of this new technology and the broad ecosystem of service companies that are needed to support such a vision."
Mr Bharti Mittal told BBC News: "For the second generation we will of course have full precision, navigation and timing. And if the UK government wants other payloads that are vital to security needs, we will do whatever is necessary . "
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Sunil Mittal

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