Starlink competitor from UK: OneWeb picks $300M as race for broader internet heats up

ONEWEB Image credits: ONEWEB

In the latest development, South Korean conglomerate Hanwha Systems Co. has decided to invest $300 million (approx​ £216 million) in OneWeb, a London-based Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communications company. 

The investment brings OneWeb’s total equity funding to $2.7 billion (approx​ £1.94 billion) with no debt issuance. This financing round comes 8 months after securing £293 million from SoftBank Group Corp. and Hughes Network Systems LLC

254 satellites in low-Earth orbit

According to OneWeb, it has 254 satellites in low-Earth orbit out of a planned 648, far fewer than 1,500 satellites launched by Starlink. Notably, the UK company has scheduled another launch this August from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. 

Besides the investment, Hanwha brings further defence capabilities and the latest antenna technologies to OneWeb, on top of relationships to new government customers and expanded geographical reach. 

Acquires 8.8% stake

The investment is expected to be completed in the first half of 2022, subject to regulatory approvals. The South Korean company will acquire an 8.8% stake and a board seat as a part of the financing round. It’s worth mentioning that the majority of the stake is with India’s Bharti Airtel. 

OneWeb, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communications company jointly owned by the UK Government and Bharti Global, is on a mission to connect everyone, everywhere. 

High-speed, low-latency services

Through a global constellation of satellites in Low Earth Orbit, OneWeb will be able to deliver high-speed, low-latency services everywhere. The company’s LEO satellite system includes a network of global gateway stations and a range of user terminals for different customer markets. 

OneWeb’s global service will deliver new solutions for Broadband, Government, and Cellular Backhaul. Its high-speed, low-latency network will offer mobility solutions to industries that rely on global connectivity, such as Aviation, Maritime, Automotive, Trains, and more.

Sunil Bharti Mittal, Founder, and Chairman of Bharti Enterprises said: “We welcome Hanwha to OneWeb. These are exciting and fast-paced times in the space sector. With Hanwha alongside, we will be able to access the highest quality of technological thinking and development. They are a powerful partner in our global mission to connect the world.”

Youn Chul KIM President, Chief Executive Officer, and Director at Hanwha Systems said: “We are pleased to join hands with OneWeb, which has strength in the LEO communication area, the core of space business. To OneWeb ‘s vision of connecting all the people across the globe, Hanwha System’s satellite and antenna technology will bring more advantages.”

UK Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Today’s $300m investment in OneWeb by Hanwha is the latest in a series of votes of confidence in the company from the market. It’s clear that leading global investors see a promising future for this ground-breaking company and a robust commercial case for investment.

“The Government’s equity stake in OneWeb not only allows the UK to capitalise on our first-mover advantage to deploy low Earth orbit technology but will put our country at the forefront of the small satellite market, which is set to rapidly expand over the years ahead.”

Neil Masterson, Chief Executive at OneWeb, said: “Hanwha brings advanced defence and antenna technology development to the OneWeb line-up. We are all delighted that they have chosen to join us on this journey of innovation, shaping a global service to connect the most remote locations and to provide a critical digital pathway from space to our interconnected world.”