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Startup Building World’s Largest Constellation of Satellites Gets $1+ Billion Investment

Bearing the agenda of “Bridge the Digital Divide”, British start-up OneWeb has cut a stellar deal of investment with Japan’s SoftBank. The investment announcement made public on Monday shared that OneWeb shall be getting $1 billion from the Japanese investment. This shall be utilized to launch 720 desk-sized satellites into space starting in 2019, where they will orbit the Earth from pole to pole in 18 carefully plotted rings.

Other than being a remarkable achievement for a start-up to claim this huge a funding -a total of $1.2 billion by SoftBank and others- the significance of the development becomes more apparent with the knowledge that the start-up is building world’s largest Constellation of Satellites. OneWeb is on a mission to create an affordable global gateway.

Chief executive Greg Wyler has global ambitions for the satellite network.

“What that means is anybody anywhere should have access to the Internet on a GDP-adjusted affordable basis.”

Wyler said the network could deliver high-speed Internet to every school in the world by 2022, and solve the so-called “digital divide” between Internet haves and have nots by 2027.

The means to this ambitious project lie in development of OneWeb’s new satellite design which is smaller and cheaper than the prevailing models. By compressing satellite parts into more compact chunks, Wyler says his factories will be able to churn out 15 satellites each week at just $600,000 per unit, and maintain many of the capabilities of larger satellites that cost tens of hundreds of millions of dollars each. The satellites shall be assembled at a new high-volume production facility in Exploration Park, Fla., in a joint venture with European aerospace firm Airbus.

Founded in 2012, OneWeb got its early seed funding from Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and has since been an investors’ blue-eyed by having secured up at least $1.7 billion from them. OneWeb’s new Florida production facility is estimated to create close to 3,000 jobs in the United States in the next four years.

In his statement, Wyler asserted to provide boundless low latency broadband access available for homes, connected cars, trains, planes and cellular back-haul applications.

The company plans to provide more details of the roadmap in near future, which are likely to include greater than 100x capacity growth from its first generation system, including Gigabit per second speeds, lower latencies, and affordable self-installed terminals. These new capabilities will support both the 2022 goal of connecting every unconnected school and the 2027 goal of bridging the digital divide.

Company’s Chairmean announced:

In early 2018 we will launch an initial 10 production satellites, which, pending a detailed test regiment, will become the first of our fleet. Six months later we will begin our full launch campaign and start providing low latency broadband access as early as 2019.

FEATURED PHOTO: MATTHEW LLOYD/BLOOMBERG NEWS
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