UK-based Oneweb has a loft ambition. The technology start-up aims to realise complete global internet access penetration. Internet access that is not just limited to town and cities where the commercial model means putting in extensive and expensive infrastructure makes sense for private enterprise. Global high-speed internet coverage that democratises access to information and services and the personal and economic development that represents. An internet connection as available to a Namibian cattle herder as it is to the London commuter.
Oneweb plans to achieve that by launching and maintaining an extensive network of satellites it believes will mean everyone on Earth can have theoretical access to high-speed broadband by 2021. Just two years from now.
That tight timeline is now a realistic possibility with a funding round for $1.25 billion (£942 billion) having been successfully closed. It was led by Softbank, whose Vision Fund is the world’s largest technology investors, Virgin and chip maker Qualcomm.
Oneweb’s vision is one that, if realised, will take a hugely positive step towards supporting the development of regions that have been left behind in the information age. It also has huge commercial value. Even if a huge investment, a satellite network delivering broadband globally is much easier and cheaper to set-up and maintain than existing infrastructure compromised of cables and telecoms masts. Which means the service can also be offered much more cheaply. Cheaply enough to hopefully mean it is accessible to even the world’s poorer communities.
Oneweb chief executive Adrian Steckel commented:
“This latest funding round, our largest to date, makes Oneweb’s service inevitable and is a vote of confidence from our core investor base in our business model and the Oneweb value proposition.”
Last month the company, in a joint partnership with Airbus, launched its first six satellites into orbit.
Production will now be stepped up towards a target of being able to launch as many as 30 new satellites a month from Q4 of this year. The initial target is for 650 satellites, which will be enough to provide coverage across the huge majority of the globe.
To date, London-based Oneweb has raised a huge $3.4 billion in investment including an £18 million contribution from the UK Space Agency.