Amazon eyes OneWeb
May 4, 2020
By Chris Forrester
Jeff Bezos’s Amazon is studying UK-headquartered satellite business OneWeb which is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US.
The Sunday Telegraph reported that Bezos, who has his own Project Kuiper mega-constellation of satellites in the planning and development stage, had his lawyers inspecting OneWeb’s assets. Other due-diligence examinations of OneWeb’s financials include Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Paris-based satellite operator Eutelsat.
The UK government has also examined OneWeb’s books and assets and this is understood to be connected to a request from OneWeb for a cash injection to help keep it afloat.
The deadline for interested parties to express an interest in making a formal bid will expire at 5pm New York-time on May 4th. The actual auction process will take place on July 2nd if more than one interested party expresses interest.
The formal press advertising confirming the bankruptcy of OneWeb appeared in various newspapers on May 1st.
The logic for Bezos in entering a bid for all or part of the OneWeb business is that it would give Amazon a ‘fast track’ to launching Project Kuiper, although some aspects of the Kuiper plan would need adjustment.
However, Bezos has his own rockets in development which would easily launch the remaining satellites in the OneWeb plan. Moreover, unlike SpaceX and Eutelsat, Amazon has millions of registered users around the globe who might become subscribers of an Amazon-backed broadband-by-satellite system.
The logic for Eutelsat is that they are the only ‘Big Four’ satellite operator without a Low Earth orbiting (LEO) satellite plan.
Intelsat had an agreement with OneWeb which might be re-instated with a successful bidder for OneWeb’s assets. SES has its existing O3b MEO system and expansion with mPower satellites. Telesat has a scheme for almost 300 LEO satellites.
Up for grabs are OneWeb’s spectrum and frequency allocations, as well as 74 satellites already in orbit.