The French telecoms satellite operator Eutelsat is switching from geostationary satellites to the constellation of satellites in low orbit. He announced Tuesday, April 27, his decision to invest $ 550 million in OneWeb, in exchange for a 24% stake in the Anglo-Indian company that wants to offer satellite internet service. The operation should be finalized in the second half of 2021. Another financial contribution should be announced by OneWeb during the year.
The race for satellite internet
OneWeb aims to provide a global access service to the Internet using a constellation of 648 satellites in low orbit. A sector in which it has to face competition from SpaceX and its Starlink network, which already offers the first commercial offers to individuals. Amazon is also in the race with its Kuiper constellation project, which is less advanced, however. For its part, OneWeb hopes to cover the first regions by the end of the year and offer global coverage by the end of 2022. A total of 184 satellites have already been sent into orbit.
OneWeb promises sales of around one billion dollars in the three to five years following the full deployment of its constellation. But until then, developments are extremely expensive. OneWeb, which encountered difficulties securing a fundraiser, was placed in bankruptcy in March 2020 before being bought out equally by the United Kingdom and the Indian telephone operator Bharti for more than a billion euros. dollars. Eutelsat will therefore sit alongside these two players on the company’s board of directors.
“Eutelsat is a great partner for OneWeb thanks to the strong complementarity of our technologies, our resources, our target markets, our geographic reach and our institutional relationships”, commented Neil Masterson, CEO of OneWeb, in a statement. The Anglo-Indian company will be able to benefit from the commercial influence of Eutelsat and its institutional relations. A godsend to facilitate the deployment of its offer since OneWeb intends to set up an indirect distribution strategy. Note that these offers will not be aimed at individuals, contrary to the ambitions of SpaceX and Amazon.
OneWeb will also be able to benefit from the expertise of Eutelsat and its fleet of geostationary satellites, to which will be added its own constellation of satellites in low orbit which will offer very low latency, high throughput and global coverage. “OneWeb will be our main driver of growth outside of our Broadcast and Broadband activities”, says Rodolphe Belmer, CEO of Eutelsat.