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January 15, 2021

SoftBank, Hughes pump $400m into satellite firm OneWeb

By Robert Scammell

Satellite communications company OneWeb has received a $400m funding boost from Japanese conglomerate SoftBank and high-speed satellite internet service firm Hughes Network Systems.

The capital injection brings OneWeb’s total funding to $1.4bn and follows a turbulent period for the UK-headquartered company.

In 2020 the company filed for bankruptcy and was rescued by the UK government, which took a $500m stake in a bid to replace the use of the EU’s Galileo sat-nav system. It joined a consortium led by Indian conglomerate Bharti Enterprises.

In December OneWeb launched 36 satellites, designed to be part of a constellation beaming down broadband connectivity across the world.

That brought its total operational fleet to 110 satellites, but the company has scaled down its ambitions following its financial troubles.

OneWeb said the funding will enable it to deploy the remainder of its first-generation feet of satellites by the end of 2022, which will eventually total 648.

The company had originally applied to the FCC for permission to launch 47,884 satellites, a figure now reduced to 6,372.

As part of the terms of the investment, SoftBank will gain a seat on OneWeb’s board of directors.

“We are excited to support OneWeb as it increases capacity and accelerates towards commercialisation,” said Masayoshi Son, chairman & CEO of SoftBank.

“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Bharti, the UK Government and Hughes to help OneWeb deliver on its mission to transform internet access around the world.”

Sunil Bharti Mittal, executive chairman of OneWeb, said: “We are delighted to welcome the investment from SoftBank and Hughes. Both are deeply familiar with our business, share our vision for the future, and their commitment allows us to capitalise on the significant growth opportunity ahead for OneWeb. We gain from their experience and capabilities, as we deliver a unique LEO network for the world.”

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