OneWeb Files for Bankruptcy

OneWeb, one of the companies looking to use constellations of satellites to provide competition to terrestrial and wireless broadband providers has filed for bankruptcy and will try to sell the company.

OneWeb suggested it was on the verge of getting financing when the pandemic hit. It had already invested billions of dollars in the enterprise.

"Since the beginning of the year, OneWeb had been engaged in advanced negotiations regarding investment that would fully fund the Company through its deployment and commercial launch," OneWeb indicated. "While the company was close to obtaining financing, the process did not progress because of the financial impact and market turbulence related to the spread of COVID-19."

The bankruptcy filing was made in the Southern District of New York. The company said it will try to sell the operation to "maximize the value" of the company. It has launched 74 (of its planned 600-plus satellites) and has 44 ground stations completed or in development.

Back in June 2017, the FCC unanimously approved OneWeb's request to deliver its service in the U.S. market (as part of a global operation), including particularly hard-to-reach and expensive-to-reach rural areas, after FCC chairman Ajit Pai proposed approving it.

The FCC subsequently approved similar plans by SpaceX, SpaceNorway, Kepler and Theia Holdings.

Closing the rural digital divide is one of the FCC's priorities, even more so in the age of social distancing.

OneWeb investors included Qualcomm, Virgin, and Hughes--Virgin Group founder Richard Bransom and Qualcomm executive Chairman Paul Jacobs were initially members of the board.

The goal was to blanket the planet with non-geostationary satellites.

“OneWeb has been building a truly global communications network to provide high-speed low latency broadband everywhere," said CEO Adrian Steckel. "Our current situation is a consequence of the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. We remain convinced of the social and economic value of our mission to connect everyone everywhere." 

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.