For the most part, at least in the U.S., the battle for satellite-powered internet and other in-home satellite services has been between Dish Network and Direct TV; however, a new player is looking to enter the competition. Just weeks subsequent to Tesla seeking permission form the U.S. Government to roll out a service for its customers that would be powered by thousands of satellites orbiting above the earth, OneWeb has raised $1.2 billion in a single fundraising round. The company is looking to launch satellites in 2018, for the purpose of offering satellite services to customers in rural areas that do not currently have access to satellite internet services. Additionally, the company will be looking to offer its services to emerging countries.
OneWeb LLC is a global communications company formally known as WorldVu. The company was founded by Greg Wyler. The company has plans to launch a constellation of satellites that will be made up of a network of low earth orbiting microsatellites. The focus of the company is to reach millions of potential customers who do not currently have access to high-quality satellite-powered internet. In June of 2015, the company entered a manufacturing deal with Airbus Defense and Space to produce the satellites that will be a part of this project.
Due to the fact that the process of launching satellite services is a complex and time-consuming one, it is not likely that most people will have access to these services for a number of years. Despite the fact that the point in which the company will go operational is a few years away, money from investors has been rolling in in large amounts. Prior to the current fundraising round, the company had raised $500 million from a league of investors that include Virgin, Coca Cola, Boeing, Qualcomm and Airbus. In this latest round of fundraising, the investing is being led by Japan-based SoftBank, which has invested $1 billion into OneWeb.
According to a spokesperson for OneWeb, the money will be used to support a high-volume satellite manufacturing facility that will be located in Florida. The company announced the building of the facility earlier in the year. The program is quite ambitious, with a production goal of 15 satellites per week, at a fraction of the cost that most satellite manufacturers can do. The complete development of the Florida-based operation is set to be completed in 2018. The company is projecting that it will create a minimum of 3,000 jobs in the area over the course of the next four years.
The creation of these new jobs directly coincides with the pledge that SoftBank has made to bring new jobs and investment dollars to the U.S. Following a highly-publicized meeting with President-elect Donald Trump earlier this month, Mashayoshi Son, CEO of SoftBank, pledged to invest a minimum of $50 billion dollars in U.S. enterprise endeavors, as well as create over 50,000 new jobs in the country. These investments and new jobs will come through several entities, which include Softbank itself, as well as its subsidiaries like Sprint and Today’s News. Additionally, more money will be coming from a $100 billion Vision Fund that the telecom giant has created in partnership with Saudi Arabia’s investment fund, PIF.
Son, acknowledged that he made some significant pledges to President-elect Trump, and the company’s investment in OneWeb is simply the beginning of honoring the pledge he has made to President-elect Trump. Son also iterated that America is a country that has always been out front in the areas of technological development and innovation, the company is ecstatic to have the opportunity to play a role in the drive and growth of companies like OneWeb.
It is the goal of OneWeb to help in the development of a global ecosystem network through the development and launching of a constellation of powerful satellites that have the capacity of providing customers with affordable internet on a global scale. What this means is improved services for existing satellite internet customers, as well as new-found internet connectivity for rural areas and emerging countries that currently do not have access to quality internet services.
One of several lofty goals set by OneWeb is to ensure that all schools have internet access by the year 2022, in addition to creating the potential to help emerging technologies, such connected cars, the internet of things and more reach the status of being mainstream.
An even larger goal of the company is to completely bridge the great digital divide by the year 2027, making quality internet services affordable and available to everyone, according to the company’s founder, Greg Wyler, in a note posted on the company’s website.
It is the goal of the company to initially launch 10 test satellites in 2018, with the aspiration of rolling out its complete fleet of 72 satellites just six months afterward. If everything runs as planned, the company could actually be operational as soon as 2019.
During this latest round of fundraising, OneWeb was valued at 2.5 billion, and it is milking that value in its fundraising efforts. Much of the optimism that is leading to such successful efforts in the fundraising department is the anticipated mid to long-term growth of the company. In addition to the services it will provide to people who do not currently have quality internet broadband service, the new manufacturing plant in Florida will also provide a boost to the job economy — adding over 3,000 jobs over the next four years.
At a time when many Americans are panicking due to the election of Donald Trump as President, he has already made several deals that has helped the job market — keeping Carrier jobs in Indianapolis and the boost to the Florida economy associated with the $1 billion investment from SoftBank. If OneWeb can deliver their services at a relatively inexpensive price, it will definitely shake up the domination of the existing two powerhouses in the industry — Dish Network and Direct TV. Other players, such as Verizon, ATT and Xfinity will have to take notice as well. This should be a good boost for the global economy as well.