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OneWeb to build Version 2 craft for positioning

November 23, 2020

By Chris Forrester

OneWeb, which exited its Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring last week, says the company is planning for a Generation 2 version of its current satellite design which would incorporate global positioning.

Adrian Steckel, the outgoing CEO, told Space Intel Report that a satellite fleet with positioning, navigation and timing (the key PNT elements of any GPS system) would cost below £1 billion. He stated that there was no need for the rumoured – and hugely expensive – atomic clocks to be incorporated in each satellite as much of that technology is provided from the ground.

He said that OneWeb’s 1st Generation satellites would give “timing” to the authorities and a level of resilience while Generation 2 was developed. Steckel added that it wasn’t just the UK which was looking for an alternate to GPS but also other countries such as India, New Zealand and Japan. He admitted that it would take time but it was highly likely to happen over time.

OneWeb, in its bankruptcy documentation, says it will need another $1.2 billion in financing either from fresh equity or borrowings.  The company paid out a total of $41.5 million in various professional fees in relation to the bankruptcy.

Steckel praised Bharti Global, now the UK’s partner in OneWeb, adding that Bharti was a highly disciplined operation and used to playing “at scale”.  Bharti owns 42.2 percent of OneWeb, almost matching the UK’s 42 percent ownership although the UK has a ‘golden share’ to finally control the business. Softbank of Japan and Hughes Network Systems are minority shareholders along with Qualcomm, Airbus, Grupo Salinas of Mexico and the government of Rwanda.

Bharti’s Sunil Mittal, in a local interview in India, said that an initial service would debut next summer with full 24/7 broadband services in India by May-June 2022.

Hughes Network Systems is building OneWeb’s ground segment and says it will invest another $50 million into OneWeb.

Neil Masterson, a UK national and former senior executive with Thomson Reuters is the new CEO at OneWeb.

OneWeb will launch an additional 36 satellites on December 17th from Russia’s ‘Far East’ cosmodrome. It has 74 already in orbit. OneWeb is looking to have its initial 648 satellites fully orbited by the end of 2022 with initial services in northern latitudes beginning by the end of 2021.

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