Home / Companies / News /  SoftBank, Hughes make $400 mn bet on OneWeb

Japan’s SoftBank Group and Hughes Network Systems LLC have invested $400 million in OneWeb, a broadband satellite communications company acquired by a consortium of investors comprising the UK government and Sunil Mittal-led Bharti Global.

The investment will take the total funding in OneWeb to $1.4 billion, a company statement said. The UK government and Bharti Global had invested $500 million each to acquire OneWeb under a bankruptcy resolution process.

As part of the investment, SoftBank will gain a seat on OneWeb’s board. Hughes Network has infused capital through its parent EchoStar, and is an ecosystem partner, developing essential ground network technology for OneWeb’s system, the company said.

“The capital raised to date positions the company to be fully funded for its first-generation satellite fleet, totalling 648 satellites, by the end of 2022," it said.

OneWeb plans to start high-speed internet services in India by mid-2022.

In December, it had launched 36 satellites from Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia, taking the total to 110. OneWeb aims to have a total of 648 low-earth orbit satellites as part of its plan to deliver high-speed and low-latency broadband services globally.

“Both (SoftBank and Hughes) are deeply familiar with our business, share our vision for the future, and their commitment allows us to capitalize on the significant growth opportunity ahead for OneWeb," Bharti Enterprises chairperson Mittal said.

Mittal had in November said that OneWeb will boost rural broadband connectivity in India and other developing countries, including those in Africa.

“For rural broadband, I would say Africa, India and less developed countries will benefit from OneWeb’s satellite network. They will have the biggest benefit. For critical applications such as defence, the ministry of defence in the UK is already engaging with us because they need connectivity in very remote areas," Mittal had said.

For 5G services, satellite network will play an important role as it will reach areas where fibre and radio airwaves cannot penetrate, Mittal said.

The cost of using a satellite network is the highest among the three mediums, and thus, fibre and spectrum will be the preferred modes of transmission of data wherever they will be available, he added.

Mittal’s comments come amid the Centre’s push to ramp up broadband services in urban and rural areas as millions access internet from their homes since March due to covid-led restrictions, resulting in greater dependence on wireless networks and affecting service quality.

OneWeb, based in the UK, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy at the end of March 2020 after failing to secure $2 billion financing from lead shareholder SoftBank.

The portfolio firms of Bharti Global and its subsidiaries include Bharti Airtel, One-Web, Gleneagles and Hoxton Hotels, Emtel and Hike.

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