OneWeb Adding to Satellite Broadband Fleet

OneWeb uses it satellites to deliver broadband service to hard-to-reach areas. (Image credit: OneWeb)

OneWeb said it is about ready to launch another 40 low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellites that will help it provide broadband connectivity in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

It said the launch window opens December 6.

The launch will be the company’s 15th and its first since one from India on October 23, when 36 satellites were launched and the signals successfully acquired, OneWeb said.

If successful, the latest launch will push OneWeb’s satellite total to just under 700 LEOs for delivering high-speed broadband service, which the company said is on track to light up next year.

This time, the launch will be from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, a first for OneWeb.

OneWeb is among many such LEO-based satellite broadband efforts the Federal Communications Commission has given its regulatory approval to promote broadband price and service competition, to advance the internet of things (IoT) and 5G for all and to help close the digital divide in the U.S.

OneWeb’s stated goal is to get broadband to some of the hardest-to-reach areas of the world.

In June 2017, the FCC under then-chair Ajit Pai unanimously approved OneWeb's request to deliver its service in the U.S. market, including particularly hard-to-reach and expensive-to-reach rural areas.

Pai’s successor, chair Jessica Rosenworcel, also supports LEOs as a way to provide broadband competition.

OneWeb filed for bankruptcy in 2020, suggesting it was on the verge of getting financing when the pandemic hit. It had already invested billions of dollars in the enterprise.

The company was able to get new funding from, among others, the U.K. government, and emerged from bankruptcy late last year. It secured over $1 billion in launch insurance back in September 2021. ■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.