Founded in 2012, the company was a pioneer in the design and construction of mega-constellations of hundreds of satellites that could provide global broadband. It raised $3.4bn from the likes of Japan’s SoftBank, but it came unstuck last March when investors pulled the plug on new funding.
An unexpected white knight came in the form of the British Government, along with India’s Bharti Enterprises, which secured a $1bn deal to buy the remains of the company last year.
But by the time OneWeb restarted launches in December, SpaceX had ramped up its own efforts.
“OneWeb were the innovators in launching a big constellation,” says Marek Ziebart, a professor at University College London. “With Elon Musk, as typically happens in tech, someone else had burnt the research and development dollars doing the high-risk process of proving something can be done, and once it is done the vultures come down.”
Musk’s Starlink now has more than 1,300 satellites in orbit, covering much of the northern hemisphere. In the UK, it offers its service around 50 degrees latitude north and expects to cover Britain by the end of the year.
OneWeb’s Masterson says its own service, which as of Thursday morning had 146 satellites in orbit, will provide coverage from the “North Pole to Cornwall” by the end of the year.
Rather than going directly to punters, OneWeb is portraying itself as an ally to telecoms companies. “One of our shareholders [Bharti] is one of the largest telcos in the world, and we have an entrée into every single telco around the world. It is the natural approach for us,” he says.
That offer of help will be welcome in very rural areas where the cost of installing fibre is uneconomical.
This Article firstly Publish on www.telegraph.co.uk